Get to know the Grossman Ensemble: Matthew Oliphant, horn

Matt Oliphant


This year at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition, we're introducing (or re-introducing) you to members of our resident ensemble, the Grossman Ensemble. Today, we're sharing more about hornist Matt Oliphant. Continue reading to learn what has kept him interested in contemporary music throughout his life, what other kinds of music he likes to listen to and play, and more!

What has been your most memorable moment from your time in the Grossman Ensemble? 

There are two that stand out. One is working with Chen Yi in 2019. We got lunch together at a food truck one day between rehearsals and she was a pure joy to spend time with and get to know. She had never eaten at a food truck like that and was so happy to have the experience! 

The other is our very first rehearsal with Tania León. She came to that rehearsal with rhythmic studies for us to play around with. Her rhythmic language is based on Cuban and other Latin American music; we were playing the rhythms technically correct, but she wasn’t satisfied until we understood the way the rhythms were supposed to feel. It was eye opening and wonderful!

What other ways do you like to make music in your life?

As a freelance musician I play as many things as I can that come my way, but my focus is definitely on new music and chamber music. More recently my interest has been on free improvisation, and I get together fairly regularly with friends and colleagues to explore that way of playing. I also began studying jazz more seriously this year, taking lessons and digging into the language and style of some of the music I love to listen to!

Matt Oliphant

What is it about new music that made you interested in trying it out? What has kept you interested?

I first became interested in new music as a high school student, but it really solidified in college when I had a twentieth century music theory class with Jason Eckardt and Drew Baker, both composers. Eckardt came to composition from a unique direction, and his attachment to the Second Viennese School of music grabbed me both intellectually and artistically. I’ve been involved ever since because, probably like most people who focus on new music, I love experimentation and exploration. That exploration is an essential part of my life, both personally and professionally, and I cannot imagine my life without it!

What do you enjoy doing during your time away from your instrument?

I am an avid reader, an avid crossword solver, and a secret Dungeons and Dragons nerd. 

Any book recommendations?

The last book that blew me away was The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia. It’s a fairly experimental book, including blacked out text and odd page layouts. I also really love the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde. And anything by Audrey Niffenegger!

If you could only listen to one genre of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?

What a difficult question! The music that I am most drawn to straddles multiple genres. But I could listen to master improvisers all day and be happy, whether they come at it from the new music world, the jazz world, or the post-rock world!

If the horn was a culinary dish, what would it be?

Mole. Delicious, versatile, complex, and incredibly difficult and time-consuming to prepare. 

What has being in the Grossman Ensemble meant to you?

Having a distinct group of colleagues to work with on a regular basis is such a joy. Coming down to Hyde Park knowing exactly who I’ll be playing with every few weeks, especially since every player is an absolute rock-star. The other thing is getting to really know the composers of each piece we perform. Getting to know each individual’s style and approach has been fascinating and rewarding!