Artist profile: Nathan Matson keeps the beat

Nathan Matson leads a world percussion-drum circle and his band, Kuva Rhythm Project, performs Sept. 12 at Ferndale’s Art in the Park.
Nathan Matson leads a world percussion-drum circle and his band, Kuva Rhythm Project, performs Sept. 12 at Ferndale’s Art in the Park. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Ferndale Arts Commission hosts its fourth annual Art in the Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12-13, at Pioneer Park Pavilion Community Center, next to Pioneer Park at the foot of Cherry Street.

In addition to vendors, a marionette show, dancers from the Ceili Club, and demonstrations by artists, Nathan Matson will lead a drumming circle, and his marimba band, Kuva Rhythm Project, will perform.

Here’s more about how Matson.

Question: What was your childhood like?

Answer: I was born and raised in Cody, a small town in northwestern Wyoming. It sits near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. This is where I developed my love of music and a great appreciation for nature.

We were lucky in Cody in that we had a very fine drumming instructor who taught many of the kids in the area. Consequently, we had a small but dynamic drumming culture with our teacher, Mr. Raver, at the center. I had older friends who were drummers and I knew that this is what I wanted to do, too. So I started lessons at age 11. Since then, I have never stopped. I did music all through high school and was selected to the prestigious Wyoming All-State band. This lead to college level music.

Q: What did you study at university?

A: I have an Associates in Art degree in applied music from Laramie County Community College, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Wyoming, and a master’s in social work from Colorado State University. Although only one of my degrees is in music, I have been so fortunate to get to study and perform music while at all of these institutions. This has included marching band drum-line, percussion ensemble, jazz ensemble, symphonic band, and psychology of music. My core music curriculum included music theory, piano, and voice training along with percussion lessons.

Q: When did you start performing?

A: I did my first paid gig at age 16, playing drums in a local country band. I have literally been doing it ever since in many groups. As I have grown musically, my style has been influenced by the study of world percussion and culture. In August 2015 I studied with a Zimbabwean master drummer, where we learned a sacred rhythm used in rituals and ceremonies. Cool!

Consequently, the groups that I have played in reflect these interests. Some more recent Bellingham groups include the world rhythm inspired Jacapito and Evolution Trio, and the Zimbabwean style ensemble Ruvara Marimba.

My newest group is called the Kuva Rhythm Project. We are also firmly rooted in the joyful Zimbabwean marimba tradition but we include other styles as well, including West African drumming, Peruvian folk songs, and even a Finnish polka. It’s very exciting stuff.

Last but not least, I hold the drummer position in the forever feisty alt-rock band Fritz and the Freeloaders. I’m proud to have done this for eight years now, longer than any other group I’ve been in.

Q: And you also teach?

A: Performing is fun but my primary vocation is music education. Utilizing my music and social work education, I have taught individuals and groups privately in Bellingham for 15 years, including studios at Mojo Music in Bellingham and Jansen Art Center in Lynden. I teach all ages, in all areas, including school-band fundamentals, snare drumming, and drum-set and hand-drumming classes. At this point I have literally taught percussion to hundreds of Bellinghamsters and I see no reason to stop!

Q: What will you be doing at Art in the Park?

A: I’ll be doing a world percussion-drum circle at 11 a.m. Saturday. I will be demonstrating different instruments and rhythms, including West Africa, Zimbabwean, Afro-Cuban and Middle Eastern styles. We’ll end with an open drum circle. The Kuva Rhythm Project will perform at 1 p.m.

Through this event I hope to impart to people greater understanding and appreciation of percussion and its various roles within cultures. I want it to act as a bridge for cross-cultural understanding.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Read her columns at bellinghamherald.com/behind-the-scenes.

Art in the Park

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12-13

Where: Pioneer Pavilion Community Center, 2007 Cherry St., Ferndale

Cost: Free

Details: Ferndale Arts Commission on Facebook, 360-384-0050