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Volume 24, Number 10 — October 2017

Passion for music leads King's Matthew Larkin to New York for graduate music program in Instrumental Conducting

Matthew Larkin
Matthew Larkin

July 31, 2014

BRISTOL, Tenn. Matthew Larkin has always had a passion for music. After discovering his love for conducting at King University, Larkin will soon set off for Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. to begin his graduate studies in conducting.

King University's Director of Bands Lonny Finley said of Larkin, "Matthew has been a pleasure to work with for the last four years. The maturation we've seen in him in every area has been remarkable. He has grown in intellectual curiosity, emotionally, as an artist and musician. We in the music department are proud of his achievements and look forward to seeing wonderful work from him as he continues to learn and grow. We are excited about his future."

Larkin, a native of Waverly, Tenn., will receive his bachelor's degree in music from King University in August. Ever since he was in middle school, he has performed in the band. "I remember always wanting to be in the band. I thought it was weird for people to not want to be in band." Throughout middle school and high school, Larkin participated in music, band and marching band.

While Larkin plays clarinet and an assortment of other instruments, he found a true passion for conducting during his sophomore year when he took the introduction to conducting class. "I love the feeling of being up there, being an artistic inspiration for the sounds. When I was in high school I was usually always in a position of leadership. But, what's interesting with conducting is, although conductors are regarded as leaders, it's more about the expression and connection, not just dictating commands. It's an intimate process of connecting and communicating non-verbally with an ensemble to get the best sounds. I really like that; I think it helps me to be a better human being, to express things and to communicate with people. I don't know a better way to do it than through music, for which I've had a passion since middle school."

When looking ahead to graduate school, Larkin discovered there are few graduate programs devoted to conducting. One such program he found at Houghton College through a recommendation by W. Patrick Flannagan, professor of music and director of choral activities at King University. "Dr. Flannagan said Houghton was much like King. He said if I'd enjoyed my experience at King, where it is small, liberal-focused, with good faculty relationships then I would also find that at Houghton. The more I learned about Houghton, the more I grew to like the idea of studying there." In addition to his acceptance into the program, Larkin received one of only two graduate assistant positions for the conducting department. The graduate assistantship covers the entirety of his graduate school tuition.

When Larkin went to audition at Houghton, he met two professors, the Woosleys, who previously taught at King in the 1980s and 1990s. "It was great to find a connection between the two schools. I also loved the sense of cooperation and friendly attitude among those in the music program," said Larkin.

Since he will be attending graduate school for conducting, Larkin was in need of a baton. While at an international music conference in Chicago called the Midwest Clinic, Larkin met a King alumnus, Tate Newland ('77). "Tate, who is a world renowned baton maker, had a booth at the conference. I found it interesting that he majored in physics at King. It just goes to show you the power of a liberal arts education where you are exposed to different ideas that what you came in with. He had a passion for music, and later a hobby of woodworking. He was able to combine the two and now has a successful international business making batons." After King, Newland went on to receive a second undergraduate degree from Westminster Choir College and a Master of Choral Conducting from Kent State University.

Larkin dreams one day of conducting a professional ensemble. He also says one day he might like to teach. "[Teaching] is certainly something I have great respect for a teacher passing their legacy of music on to the student. I have some ideas of where I'd like to go after [Houghton], but I think it will depend somewhat on the contacts and connections I make while at Houghton."