Matt Keown’s (b.1991) artistry is defined by the unique duality of his musical background. At the core of his creativity exists the technique of a rudimental drummer and the sensibility of a classical musician. The idiosyncrasies of this relationship afford him a unique musical perspective characterized by precise execution and sensitive interpretation.
When prioritizing his various creative endeavors, Keown defines himself as a chamber musician first. He is a founding member of icarus Quartet, a group of two pianists and two percussionists. Icarus has quickly emerged as one of the prominent voices in new music through collaborations with composers such as Douglas Knehans, Michael Laurello, Natalie Dietterich, Ruby Fulton, and David Crowell among others. In a simple yet poignant remark, composer Paul Lansky described icarus’ artistry as “music making of the highest order” following the Carnegie Hall debut of his work Textures. Keown is also a founding member of The Percussion Collective, an ensemble that “transcends the medium of percussion through uncommon performance experiences that surprise and engage audiences at a profound emotional level.” The Percussion Collective draws from an impressive roster of artists and combines in various formations to create a “custom-tailored” fit for any given concert.
Keown’s musical journey began in the world of marching percussion where his father, acclaimed percussionist Alan Keown, introduced him to the formative structures of rhythm and regimen. Never lacking in tenacity, Keown explored this artform as fully as one can, ending his marching tenure after three years with the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps from Concord, California. Known for their ambitious design and alluring presence, the Blue Devils have won more championship titles than any other corps, with an unprecedented nineteen and counting. As a snare drummer with the group from 2009-2011, he was a member during two championship titles, both of which were undefeated tours, and received the Fred Sanford High Percussion Award in 2009. Also while in the ensemble, he won first prize in the percussion ensemble category and second prize in the solo snare drum category of the famed Drum Corps International Individual and Ensemble Competition. As a clinician for the group, he traveled to Malaysia and Lithuania to perform, inspire, and instruct percussionists in geographic areas desiring to start their own marching percussion circuits.
Keown’s varied musical ventures have afforded him the opportunity to perform in classical music’s most famous venues and collaborate with an impressive collection of artists. His initial appearance at Carnegie Hall occurred in 2013 under the baton and leadership of both David Robertson and John Adams as a percussionist with Carnegie Hall’s “21st Century Orchestra Music” program in Zankel Hall. He returned to Carnegie in 2015 when “Yale in New York” presented the Yale Percussion Group in Weill Hall. Keown has been broadcast on some of the most prominent radio networks in classical music; including WFMT in Chicago and WQXR in New York. As a member of The Percussion Collective, Keown performed as a soloist with the Oregon Symphony and the Aspen Festival Orchestra premiering Christopher Theofanidis’ concerto Drum Circles. His commitment to the creation of new music has led him to work with, or premier works by, composers such as Alejandro Viñao, Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, James Wood, Christopher Theofanidis, and Garth Neustadter to name a few.
Keown is honored to be the fourth percussionist to have ever been granted acceptance to Yale University’s prestigious Doctor of Musical Arts program. He was awarded the degree in 2022 and is currently based in Maryland. He is a regular Guest Lecturer of Percussion at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Percussion Professor at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. Hailing from the Northwest, he attended the University of Oregon for undergraduate studies before completing both a Master’s and the residency of a Doctorate at Yale where he was under the tutelage of Robert van Sice. Keown proudly endorses Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, Remo Drumheads, and Pearl/Adams Musical Instruments.