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Coastal Carolina University Musician Earns Guggenheim Fellowship

Matt White, associate professor in the Department of Music, is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2019 to forward his work in music composition.

Matt White, associate professor in the Department of Music, is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2019 to forward his work in music composition. He is the first Coastal Carolina University faculty member to earn such an award and was selected out of a pool of more than 3,000 artists and scholars from around the United States and Canada for this prestigious honor.

White will use the grant to record and compose a synthesis of two musical genres that involve local heritage and his personal expertise: Gullah and jazz. 

“I’m thrilled,” said White, who will begin work on the project this summer and continue throughout the 2019-20 academic year. “It’s exciting for me because I do so many things – I’m a trumpet player, I’m an educator -- it’s cool to get recognition as being a composer and knowing that I can just focus on this one thing for a period of time.”

It’s exciting for me because I do so many things – I’m a trumpet player, I’m an educator -- it’s cool to get recognition as being a composer and knowing that I can just focus on this one thing for a period of time.

The Guggenheim Fellowship Program was established in 1925 by former United States Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim with a mission to “add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding.”

The fellowship is awarded in four categories: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Creative Arts, and about 180 total grants are awarded each year. Past recipients in music include Aaron Copeland, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus.

White’s project will draw upon his expertise in composition, his understanding of Gullah music and culture, and his knowledge of music technology.

“My project is a large-scale composition and recorded piece that’s a collaboration between community Gullah musicians and all my friends in the jazz community,” said White. “So, I’ll be going out and doing recordings of singers and tambourine players and musicians, and then I’ll cut that up with editing and start building the compositions around that.”

White first became involved with Gullah music for a commissioned piece called “St. Helena Suite,” which he was able to compose and record with the support of a CCU professional development grant. The piece, which is included on his 2017 album recording “Super Villain Jazz Band: WorldsWide,” reimagines traditional spirituals as jazz works.

Steve Bailey, CCU artist-in-residence and chair of the bass department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, has collaborated with White as well as performing and recording White’s compositions numerous times over the past seven years. Bailey believes White is a perfect candidate to receive such an honor.

“Matt’s a consummate musician, he’s a consummate arranger, he’s an excellent educator, and he’s one of the most organized and methodical people I’ve ever met, so he’s an inspiration to many of us,” said Bailey.

Jeffrey Jones, chair and associate professor in CCU’s Department of Music, also celebrated White’s award.

“This is an incredible honor, and there are so few people that are chosen,” said Jones. “He truly deserves it.”

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