In his 36 years at Brown University, Matthew McGarrell has built up thriving musical programs that have greatly enriched the life of the department, the University, the Providence community, and the alumni network. When he arrived in the late 1980s, jazz and wind band music could be heard on campus, but it was loosely organized and served mainly as recreation rather than education. Matt kept the recreational aspect alive by providing a home, resources, and faculty mentorship to the Brown University Band, a scatter band often heard at sports events, reunions, and other festive occasions. But in founding the Brown Jazz Band and the Wind Symphony, McGarrell created, from the ground up, core institutions that cultivated the musicianship of Brown’s woodwind, brass, and percussion students, often for all four years of their undergraduate careers. His tireless dedication to these two large ensembles has earned him the loyalty of generations of Brown graduates, dozens of whom returned to campus in spring 2019 to honor his legacy and celebrate thirty years of jazz at Brown. McGarrell not only ran the Brown Jazz Band but also an entire integrated jazz program, including jazz combos, oversight of private lessons, courses on jazz theory and arranging, and courses on Duke Ellington and John Coltrane as well as jazz criticism and history. He took the Brown Jazz Band on numerous international tours, including trips to England, Japan, France, Italy, Cuba, Ireland, and the Netherlands. At the annual Brudner and Milano concerts he brought countless distinguished artists to campus, among them Clark Terry, Melissa Aldana, James Moody, Ingrid Jensen, Joe Henderson, and Anat Cohen.
Matt has advised and mentored numerous students who went on to pursue careers in jazz, popular music, and the music business. They praise him for the generous, selfless spirit with which he supported them in rehearsals, concerts, honors projects, courses, and tours, as well as his personal modesty and understated, dry sense of humor. As a full-time faculty member he has contributed vitally and with great commitment to the evolution of the Music Department’s curriculum, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and advising set-up. As he enters retirement, we wish him the very best and hope he will have more time than ever to pursue his passions, whether it’s traveling to New Orleans and the Azores, playing trombone with big bands and trombone choirs and carnival bands, reading fiction and history, going to PawSox games, or listening to jazz and Portuguese music. A despedida!
Professor of Music, Brown University