Matt Brown

Musician, Teacher & Producer

I am a musician, teacher, and producer originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania My most recent release is On Big Shoulders, a grant-funded Chicago-themed Americana album for which I was the executive producer. I assembled twelve Chicago musicians to play ten songs with links to Chicago, from an old Delmore Brothers number to a Wilco cover to a brand new Robbie Fulks song that Robbie wrote specifically for us. Check out the album and its sweet merch right here.

I was introduced to old-time music by my father, Tim Brown, who encouraged me from an early age to learn to play the fiddle.  My family went to banjo gatherings, old-time music festivals, and hosted jam sessions & concerts in our home and in nearby venues.  I studied classical violin with Linda Litwin and Richard Amoroso, and began to play the fiddle formally under the tutelage of Palmer Loux.  In my teens, I attended several immersive residential summer camps devoted to old-time music (see The Swannanoa Gathering and Ashokan below), where I met and began to study with an array of extraordinary old-time musicians including Brad LeftwichBruce MolskyRafe StefaniniPaul Brown, and Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz.  

I learned a lot by playing in the band for the percussive dance ensemble Rhythm in Shoes under the musical direction of Rick Good, and later doing the same for Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble under the musical direction of Mark Schatz.  I have been lucky enough to perform at some great venues and festivals such as The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Wheatland Music Festival, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, as well as at coffee houses, listening rooms, and house concerts across the United States.  

I have made guest appearances with The Special ConsensusTim O'Brien, The John Hartford StringbandUncle Earl, Dirk Powell & Riley Baugus, and Della Mae, and have performed around Chicago with Big Sadie, Robbie Fulks, Justin Roberts, Greg Reish, Dennis CahillGia MargaretGrant Ziolkowski, and various musicians from the Volo Bogtrotters.  One of the shortest but most rewarding musical experiences I've had was sitting in with Mike Snider's band on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in April 2015.  I subsequently got to join him there again in July 2016.

I have released four albums on my father's 5-String Productions label, including My Native Home, which includes collaborations with Tim O’Brien, Ben Krakauer, Brittany Haas, and Mark Schatz.  On that recording, I play and sing mostly traditional material, including some rarely heard ballads from my home state of Pennsylvania.  I was also delighted to be featured on the Compass Records tribute album, Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie, which was released on September 2, 2014.  

In August 2015, I traveled to Nashville to record an instrumental album of old-time fiddle & guitar duets with guitarist Greg Reish. Engineered and co-produced by Dave SinkoSpeed of the Plow comprises square dance tunes, rags, blues, and melodies reinterpreted from the solo fiddle repertory. Sources and inspirations include Virginia fiddler Emmett Lundy, Oklahoma’s Uncle Dick Hutchison, West Virginia-­born Ed Haley (whom John Hartford championed), North Carolina’s Benton Flippen, and many more. The album was released on October 9, 2015, and can be purchased from CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, or streamed on Spotify and countless other services. Greg and I played album release concerts at venues including the Old Town School of Folk Music, Swallow Hill Music, Club Passim, and Music City Roots.

From early 2016 through the end of 2018, I was a member of the Chicago-based quartet Big Sadie. Centered around the gorgeous harmony singing of songwriters Elise Bergman & Collin Moore, the band is equally at home on a festival stage, in an auditorium hall, accompanying a dance, busking on a sidewalk, passing tunes around a circle, or in an intimate rock club. Big Sadie has opened for acts ranging from country-music legend Marty Stuart to pop and indie-rock outfit Wild Belle. We recorded our debut album of Elise & Collin’s original material in December of 2016. That album was released on May 19, 2017 with a hometown release concert and party in Chicago at The Hideout. 

As a teacher, I have been on staff at The Colorado Suzuki Institute, Rocky Mountain Fiddle CampStrings by the Sea, Old-Time Week at The Swannanoa Gathering, and Southern Week at Ashokan (the ending of which in 1982 inspired camp co-director Jay Ungar to compose "Ashokan Farewell").  I’ve taught workshops at Berklee College of Music, Morehead State UniversityThe School For StringsMusic for Youth, and the Music Institute of Chicago. From 2011 to 2019, I was a teaching artist at Chicago’s venerable Old Town School of Folk Music, where I also helped lead a fiddle-centric summer camp for kids.