Purdue’s Sudler Prize winner eyes career in movie music
Matt Janszen, an acoustical engineering major from Cincinnati, OH, who’s composed original music for bands, theater and dance events at Purdue University won the 2005 Sudler Prize which honors the top senior in the arts on the West Lafayette campus.
Annually, senior candidates nominated by Visual and Performing Arts, Purdue University Bands, Purdue Musical Organizations, Purdue Theatre and the Purdue Black Cultural Center put together presentations on their accomplishments for the Sudler Prize committee. One nominee is chosen to receive the prize which carries recognition as Purdue University’s top senior in the arts along with a $1,000 prize.
The composing abilities of the 2005 winner, Matt Janszen, will be showcased two times in April. A jazz waltz inspired by his hometown, “Seven Hills,” will be premiered at the American Music Review concert at 8 p.m. Friday, April 15, in the Long Center. Janszen also composed all the music for the Purdue Theatre production of “Metamorphoses” opening April 14 in the Experimental Theatre.
Involved in ensembles at Purdue Bands ever since his arrival on campus in 2001, Janszen’s passion for music blossomed in his junior year, pushing aside thoughts of being an acoustical engineer. He won the Purdue Concerto Competition that year playing a George Gershwin concerto on piano. He started arranging music for Boiler Brass men’s basketball band, where he plays alto sax, and American Music Review where he plays piano, and got the bug to do more.
That bug took Janszen to the Experimental Theatre in spring 2004 where he opened a Purdue Theater show by playing Noel Coward on the piano, and served as assistant sound designer for the production. The same semester he composed music for a piece presented at a Purdue Repertory Dance Concert. His work was also heard on WBAA Radio.
Janszen’s revised career goal now involves studying in California and aggressively pursuing a career in film scoring following his graduation from Purdue this spring. To prepare for that, Janszen has invested his spare time in broadening his music skills, and his talent has opened doors into every performing group on campus.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” says Janszen of the band, theater, dance and public radio opportunities that have filled that span.
He’s actively sought out composing and arranging challenges that force him to work in different genres and build the diverse musical vocabulary necessary for a successful film composer. All of the experiences, “make me feel good because everything is snowballing, like this is what I’m truly meant to do,” he says. “I never had that feeling with engineering.”
Originally, music wasn’t something Janszen considered pursuing as a major in college, despite 12 years of serious piano study and learning alto sax so he could also join high school bands. But participating in band ignited buried passions and took him beyond performing into composing and arranging music.
Interesting enough, Janszen’s involvement in engineering didn’t tie his hands. Instead, he says, it encouraged him to think outside the box in terms of his career. As a result, this determined senior says, “I want to exhaust Purdue of all its possibilities.”
At Purdue Bands, in particular, “ I’ve had many opportunities that I might not have had at a school of music ,” he says, well aware that at other schools he might be competing with many would-be arrangers to get the attention of the faculty. At bands, he’s found one-on-one attention and the chance to hear the results of his efforts.
“One of the biggest thrills for me is to write music and hear it played back. It’s a rush,” Janszen says.
When he packs up to move to California, there will be a lot of memories from his musical endeavors at Purdue, but the one at the top of his list might not have anything to do with composing or arranging.
“Marching band is my most memorable experience in terms of the number of people I met, and the closer relationships I developed . Wow! Marching band was a great place to be,” Janszen says. “My most fond memories are of bowl travel, of being with friends in great places like Orlando.”
In the midst all this creative activity, senior Matt Janszen is completing his studies in acoustical engineering and finds time to counsel students coming into interdisciplinary engineering. If any of them mention music, he enthusiastically steers them toward Purdue Bands because of the encouragement he’s found there to make a mark in music as well as engineering.
Janszen says he knew Purdue’s reputation for engineering and figured he was making a smart choice as an out-of-state student to come here. Four years later that choice seems fated, he says, because of all the musical opportunities that have come his way and changed his career goals.