In all directions

Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2005


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  Tammy Vollom-Matturro practices the clarinet. She says she enjoys just about any kind of music. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Tammy Vollom-Matturro directs the orchestra in a rehearsal of Brigadoon at Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in February.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

As eclectic as the musical direction styles of Arthur Fiedler, Arte Shaw, Aaron Copland and Cottonmouth Darcy, so are the musical preferences of Kenai Peninsula director and conductor Tammy Vollom-Matturro.

Currently on somewhat of a sabbatical from teaching school band, the 38-year-old mother of two is only involved in directing the Redoubt Chamber Orchestra; she just finished directing the pit orchestra for the Kenai Performers' production of "Brigadoon"; she plays clarinet and percussion with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra; she plays with the Kalgin Island Quartet; she plays clarinet and tenor saxophone with the Kenai River Rats Dixieland band; and she teaches private lessons and at the St. Michael's Academy home school in the Skyline Drive area.

To Vollom-Matturro, that's taking time off.

From Dixieland jazz to drum-and-bugle-corps competition music, from theatrical musical production numbers to classical music, Vollom-Matturro says she really can't pick just one type of music she likes the best.

"I really have no favorite music," she said.

"I like it all. Well, maybe not rap or the real twangy country music. I do like some country," she said.

An accomplished percussionist as well as clarinetist, Vollom-Matturro attributes much of her excitement about music to a junior high school music teacher named Lyle Klein in Ely, Minn.

"He gave me the opportunity to learn any instrument I wanted and excel at it," she said.

Vollom-Matturro's parents sent her to clarinet lessons when she was younger, but it was Klein who took the lid off the musical jar.

"It started when I broke my hand playing basketball," Vollom-Matturro said.

"I couldn't play clarinet, but I learned tuba and then flute."


Tammy Vollom-Matturro, right, practices the clarinet with friend and accompanist Maria Allison in Allison's home.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Her musicianship became apparent, and soon she was playing in the jazz band, accompanying choirs on piano and becoming part of every performing group in high school.

From there, Vollom-Matturro went on to Bimidji State University where she received a bachelor's degree in music education in 1990 with clarinet as her main instrument and percussion as a minor. Her degree prepared her to teach band and classroom instruction to kindergarten through 12th grade.

"On the night of graduation, I got in the car and drove to Alaska," Vollom-Matturro said.

And she's been here since.

Although her first job was not quite what she studied for — she spent a summer working in a fishing lodge in Unalakleet — it wasn't long before her talent rose to the top and she was teaching at Kenai Central High School, Kenai Junior High and Mountain View Elementary.

"I started out teaching band and fourth grade music, and in 1994, I went to Tustumena Elementary where I taught music through 2001," she said.

Then she and her husband, Greg, a warehouse manager for ConocoPhillips, started a family. The couple now has two daughters, Kyaran, 3, and Payton, 2.

"Now I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I'm busy," she said.

In fact, the same year she stopped teaching, she directed the Kenai Performers' pit orchestra in the "Music Man" production.

"That was my first big shot at directing," she said.

"I fell in love with it."


Tammy Vollom-Matturro gives Drake Thomas, 5, a piano lesson in her home last week. She shares her love of music as a performer, a director and a teacher.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Because of the births of her two girls, she was not able to direct the Kenai Performers' productions of "The Wiz" and "Sound of Music," but she has directed the orchestra in "My Favorite Year," and this year's "Brigadoon."

Although her total immersion in music, her educational pursuit and her 15 years of teaching paint her as a very serious musician, people should not be misled.

Most under her baton would be moved to a smile recalling the times a gummy worm dangled from that very baton as Vollom-Matturro conducted, or the time the director's dagger pierced a Hostess Ho-Ho.

"There's always funny stuff going on," said friend and musical collaborator Maria Allison.

"She's always having a good time. She's got a kind of quirky sense of humor," Allison said.

When Vollom-Matturro first came to Kenai Central High School, Allison had been doing a lot of accompaniment for the school choir.

"I found (Vollom-Matturro) does clarinet and it sounded like fun to play clarinet and piano music together," she said.

"We got together, and what a wonderful musician she is," Allison said.


Tammy Vollom-Matturro practices the clarinet. She says she enjoys just about any kind of music.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Today they continue collaborating. With the Kenai Performers, Vollom-Matturro directs and Allison plays piano; they both play with the Kalgin Island Quartet; and both perform with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, which does at least two concerts a year.

During one of those concerts, Allison recalled a funny incident involving Vollom-Matturro.

"Someone else was playing clarinet, so Tammy was doing percussion," Allison said.

"It was the Christmas concert and Tammy brought these velvet-covered reindeer antlers.

"There were three percussionists and they were all toward the back (of the stage), and she passed out the antlers to each one.

"When the director, Mark Robinson, turned around to begin directing, he saw them and just lost it," Allison said.

"He wasn't ready for it.

"Then, when it's time to play, she's dead serious ... and good.

"I don't know how she switches gears so fast," Allison said.

Vollom-Matturro says her philosophy is: "If you can't have fun doing something, why do it?"

As far as clarinet playing, Vollom-Matturro said she "loves playing solo literature," classical music, and with Allison accompanying on piano.

"Some pieces for clarinet are on the jazzy side," Vollom-Matturro said.

"I mostly play that with the Dixieland band. That's where I can play all that fun stuff," she said.

When asked who her favorite composer is, she thought for a long time, then said, "Aaron Copland."

"He's done some clarinet pieces, and I would die to do his 'El Salon Mexico,'" she said, describing Copland's modern, classical composition.

"I like a little bit of everything," Vollom-Matturro said.

"I can be serious in classical clarinet, and then play in the Dixieland band," she said.

In addition to all the active groups with which Vollom-Matturro plays and directs, she also is on the substitute list as a clarinetist for the Anchorage Symphony.

"I've been called twice, but both times I was directing (on the Kenai Peninsula)," she said.

About her future plans, Vollom-Matturro said she would like to go back to teaching music full time and her long-term goal would be to open a music academy in Kenai to teach all types of music.

"We need it desperately," she said.

She becomes a bit more serious when mentioning the talk of eliminating music in schools.

"We can't have that. We need to emphasize the importance of music at all age levels," she said.

She quickly changed gears, though and said, "That sounds very serious. I'm not a really serious person."

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