The American organist, Matt Curlee (full name: John Matthew Curlee), studied organ in his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina with Billy Summers and also was a horn player and jazz pianist. He then studied at the Oundle Festival in the UK and at the Salem Organ Academy and Richard Erickson and piano with Douglas Humphries and later garduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where he was a student of David Higgs. He holds Bachelors in organ with the Performer's Certificate, and a Masters in Pedagogy of Music Theory. He has also participated in master-classes with Peter Hurford, Gillian Weir, Simon Preston, Nicholas Kynaston and Ludgar Lohmann, among others. In 1996, Matt Curlee became the 6th American and one of the youngest organists ever to win the prestigious and rigorous Grand Prix de Chartres, the French giant in the field of international organ competitions. That same year he was the winner of Eastmans Harold Gleason Emerging Artists Award.
From his innovative programming to his recent unveiling of Neos, a jazz-fusion quintet with organ, Matt Curlee has developed a reputation as a fresh voice in the organ world. As an organist, Matt Curlee has performed throughout North America and Europe, both live and in radio and TV appearances. His engagements have included premieres of new instruments, such as the acclaimed E.M. Skinner organ, refurbished and installed in Jacksonville's Jacoby Hall, which he inaugurated in two sold-out concerts with the Jacksonville Symphony in 2001. Recent performances were at the French cathedrals of Chartres, Nice, Monaco and Montpelier, and at international music festivals in Canada, France and Switzerland. He has also appeared at Westminster Abbey, and in Italy, he has performed in Ravenna and Bergamo, and at the abbey in Chiusi della Verna.
In Neos, Matt Curlee collaborates with fellow Eastman graduates Courtney Orlando, violin, Ted Poor, drums, Lawson White, percussion, and Ike Sturm, bass, performing an all-new repertoire of groove-oriented music written by some of the most promising young composers of today. Using the organ in an entirely unexpected way, one presenter recently wrote that the textures and colors explored by Neos were "nothing short of amazing."
Matt Curlee's recording credits include Syntax (2001, Suigeneris Creative Productions), a listener-friendly tour through some of the more intriguing sounds, colors, and textures of the 20th Century, and his 1999 Pro Organo release, "An Austrian Neurotic in Graf Kaiserling's Court". Of this disc, which features an unlikely pairing of two strangely parallel works - J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) and the final 2 movements (Adagio and Finale) from Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony - Bernard Durman of The Diapason worte, "This CD contains some of the finest Bach playing I have ever heard, from any artist, on any organ, period...prize-winning playing from a prize winning artist!"
Matt Curlee is Director of Music and Organist at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Penfield, a suburb of Rochester, NY, where he lives with his wife Alisa, a highly sought-after collaborative pianist in the Rochester area. He performs there as a continuo player and accompanist, as well as a soloist, and has been preparing a lecture program on the complete organ works of Maurice Duruflé.