Spotlight: Guitarist shares love of music with students

Classical guitar may not have been the start of Matthew Ardizzone's career, but he has made a living from the music that he loves.

Ardizzone has been an admissions officer at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance since 2006. His job is dictated by the seasonal influx of students applying for admittance to the school. Depending on the time of year, he is meeting with prospective students, reading and reviewing applications, enrolling students, or assisting them at orientation.
(Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services)

The admissions department makes selections based on the student's application, performance, academic performance, test scores, enrollment targets and openings in a particular department. This fall, nearly 1,700 high school students applied for 180 available freshmen spots. Three counselors divide the workload. "I review applications to the strings department (violin, viola, cello, double bass and harp), piano, composition and dance."

Ardizzone's job also involves organizing the orientation, and he particularly enjoys advising new students. "I'm sitting down with (the students) saying 'you have to take theory, you have to enroll in lessons' ... It is important that they leave our orientation with the courses that allow them to make progress."

While growing up in Worcester, Mass., his parents — both musicians — allowed him at the age of 12 to change his musical path.

"I swapped from violin — which I was not enjoying and I'm certain others weren't enjoying if they were listening — to guitar," Ardizzone says. "I wanted to play rock 'n' roll. I was listening to Mark Knopfler and Jimi Hendrix and all these jazz guitarists. That was what I wanted to play."

Ardizzone shifted his focus when it came time to apply for colleges. "I wanted to study music, but it was clear I couldn't go to school for rock 'n' roll, so I was looking at jazz guitar." Yet many colleges required an audition for both jazz and classical guitar, regardless of an applicant's specialty. He started to take the necessary classical guitar lessons, and was captivated. "It was the sound of the instrument ... (it) knocked me back, it was so nice," says Ardizzone, who then applied to colleges to study classical guitar.

In 1991 he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from Ithaca (N.Y.) College. He then took a teaching position at Nazareth College while completing a Master of Music degree from Ithaca College, followed in 1997 by the first Doctor of Musical Arts degree given to a guitarist at the Eastman School of Music.

Ardizzone also launched a performance career, in 2000 recording a solo CD titled "Mazurka!" and a duo CD with violinist Movses Pogossian. He has performed at Zipper Hall in Los Angeles and the Kerrytown Concert House, among many others.

In 2001 he moved to Ann Arbor with his wife, conductor Rachel Lauber, and took a teaching position at Bowling Green State University. In 2002 he became director of a nonprofit artist management agency, Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates. The organization assists regional artists with their performance careers. Ardizzone then in 2006 accepted an admissions job offer at U-M.

"This was a good way for me to use my skills and knowledge of music in the (academic) field," he says. "It still works out really well, I teach private students when I want to so that I have two or three taking lessons at a time. I can be more selective and work with really serious students."

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the University. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.