Jazzed about the Motor City


Alum takes a musical journey from Notre Dame Prep to college and Detroit.

UPDATE: Jake Matthews continues to play Saturday night's with the Evan Mercer Trio at Cliff Bell's in Detroit.

Jake Matthews graduated from Notre Dame in 2013. Since then, this talented drummer has been extremely busy with a burgeoning career in music that seemingly knows few bounds.

“Actually, even during high school, but more so afterwards, I’ve had the good fortune of performing consistently in many types of music-related jobs,” said Matthews, who is in his fourth year of studies at Wayne State University. “The five genres of music that I predominately find myself working in are jazz, musical theatre, classical, rock and ‘miscellaneous.’”

He’s also an intern at Detroit’s own Mack Avenue Records and recently worked at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival as a VIP Artist Host. If all that isn’t enough, for some time now, he’s been a member of the Daniel Meinecke Trio that performs at Cliff Bell's Jazz Club in Detroit every Saturday night (6-8:30 p.m.). 

A music business major with a concentration in jazz percussion and a minor in business, Matthews said so far his college experience at WSU has been great. And he credits his high school for a good deal of that.

“I feel that my education at NDP helped prepare me for success by teaching me to stay determined in my studies,” he said. “Notre Dame also taught me to always work hard and to act professional around the people with whom I associate myself.”

Matthews added that just like at Notre Dame, he found that many of his classmates at WSU and others he has met along the way also have a very passionate interest in music.

“These people who share my same interests and passions have helped to further my musical knowledge and talent,” he said. “My time in Detroit has also presented many great opportunities, which have allowed me to perform frequently and make professional connections in the music industry. I also think I have become more ‘cultured’ due to living in the city of Detroit.”

Because music is such a passion with Matthews, and even though he’s very busy with it, he said it never has felt like work to him. 

“Due to simply having so much love for playing the drum set, every day I wake up and ask myself what am I going to practice that day, what am I going to perform, and how am I going to better myself as a musician. These questions excite me and represent the relentless hunger for knowledge and skill that I want to achieve on the drums.”

To be successful in the music industry, he said, he has come to realize that one must master two aspects of the business: talent and professionalism. 

“Although I’m pretty sure I have the talent to be successful, I however want to make sure to always remind myself of the things that I need to work on in my playing,” he said. “Besides having talent, simply by being on time and always totally prepared, and, most importantly, being nice, I’ve landed many great performances throughout the greater Detroit area.”

Matthews also brings up NDP, specifically, his time in the school’s various bands, as instrumental in getting him to where he is today in college and career.

“Some of my best experiences at NDP that I can remember were through the opportunities that were given to me by NDP Band Director Joe Martin,” Matthews said. “Whether it was from playing in the marching band, concert band, jazz band, the pit band for musicals, and even the 2013 District 4 Honors Jazz Band, Mr. Martin really helped in developing my talent as well as a good knowledge of music through these experiences.”

Matthews tries to get back to his high school alma mater whenever his busy schedule allows.

“After I graduated from Notre Dame, I was the school band’s drum-line instructor for a couple of years,” he said. “I’ve also played the drum set on Notre Dame’s 2015 Cabaret Night, and have personally reached out to a number of promising band students to talk about music in general and to give them a glimpse of what a career in music looks like after high school. And although I really do not have a lot of free time, when I do, I always try to come out to the many great NDP performing arts events and support the talented students there.”

A partial curriculum vitae of Jake Matthews’ musical journey thus far (by genre):

Jazz: founder, leader and member of the cool-jazz octet “Midtown Sounds;” weekly trio gig (Cliff Bell’s restaurant and venue); Big Band Wayne State University; Jazztet (WSU), Jason Didia Quintet (variety of venues); dinner sets (variety of venues); house drummer at the Cliff Bell’s jam sessions; Jazz Week band member (WSU); Jazz Guitar Ensemble (WSU); Big Band – Notre Dame Preparatory School (variety of venues).

Musicals: Shrek, The Adam’s Family, Grease, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Wiz, Once Upon a Mattress, 1940’s Radio Hour, Honk Jr., Romeo and Harriet, Adventures of a Comic Book Artist.

Classical: Detroit Medical Orchestra (timpani/percussion); chamber orchestra (timpani); symphonic/concert band (NDP) (Percussion).

Rock: member of the signed indie band HALA; original member of the band Zerapath; recorded and released the EP “Cycles;” played a variety of other venues, including Arts, Beats, and Eats (Royal Oak) and The Crofoot (Pontiac); plus, a short tour to Chicago.

Miscellaneous: substitute drummer/percussionist for various groups; church (NDP, New Life Christian and Redeemer Presbyterian); drum-line instructor (NDP); drum-set instructor, marching band (NDP).

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.