Matthew Abramo


Hometown: Stony Brook, New York
Member of the Nashville Symphony since 2018

What made you interested in auditioning for the Nashville Symphony?
The Nashville Symphony is a well-known group, and the level of this orchestra is known to be quite high. The city of Nashville also is obviously something that draws a lot of people. A big part of this job, which people in the music world know about, is the Schermerhorn itself. It’s known to be an amazing facility, and that is a big part of what makes being here so wonderful, in addition to many other things. 

What do you love about the bass, and what are some of your favorite pieces to play?
The bass attracted me from a young age. I don’t know exactly why I chose to play it, other than I probably saw it on some cartoons — there were characters who played the bass on Tom & Jerry and a few Looney Tunes cartoons. So I think that’s what led me to approach my parents and say, “I want to play the big violin!” — which I did probably around the fourth grade.

The bass has a very rich sound, and I like being the support for everything that’s happening around me. The bass is the foundation of the orchestra: even if sometimes you don’t notice it, it’s really doing its job and letting everything else sit on top of it and shine.

As far as favorite pieces, I really enjoy playing the music of Bach. The bass lines are very inventive and very important to his music. It also poses challenges for bass players because the instrument back then was vastly different from what we have now, and players have to find solutions to those challenges. Most bass players would probably say they love Beethoven’s symphonies too. 

Do you have a favorite contemporary American composer?
The one who has had the biggest influence on me early on is George Crumb.  I’ve never actually played anything by him, which is a bit odd. I heard his music when I was in middle school, and for some reason I was really drawn to it. It was the first music I had ever heard with this distinct sound world, which was so different from the rest of the music around me at the time. His music also opened me up to new possibilities and led me to other music that has an outside-the-box way about it, such as the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Edgard Varèse, John Adams and Arvo Pärt.  

What are some of the places you’ve traveled as a performer?
Traveling through music is one of my favorite things in life. I’ve been fortunate to do it a few times and would like to do it even more. I can’t get enough of it. I traveled all over North America playing the music of Star Wars for about 11 weeks, which was a really long but great experience. I did a tour of Central America, which was also really great. It’s a part of the world I knew very little about, but I had a wonderful time, even though I didn’t speak any Spanish. I met a lot of great people and ate a lot of good food.  I’ve also been to Switzerland and the Caribbean.

What’s special to you about the music of Star Wars, particularly since you traveled so much performing it?
In addition to being so well-written for a symphony orchestra, it’s just such memorable music. You hear it, and it sticks with you. And whenever you hear it again, it immediately brings you back to that particular movie, as well as where you were when you first saw or heard it. I personally can’t even remember when I first saw a Star Wars movie, but that music is tied so much to memory and tied to certain events. And making that connection is exactly the job of that music.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not rehearsing or performing?
I enjoy running. I’m not running marathons every month, but I like to get out of my room and run around outside. I’m reading a lot these days, trying to read a lot of different types of books. I’m also a huge craft beer enthusiast, and I enjoy a variety of beer. I’ve done a little bit of home brewing, although not on my own, and I’d like to do more of that. 

Why does classical music matter?
Art in general — whether it’s music, visual art, film — has many sub-sections within each discipline, and they all have value. I’m not of the mind-set that classical music is better than other types of music. But I think it is essential to the art form of music. If jazz suddenly disappeared, that would be a huge loss to humanity. It’s the same with classical music. It matters because people are passionate about it, and it’s a wonderful art form. 

As a classical musician, I find joy in keeping that music alive, keeping it in the human consciousness and presenting it to the world. Because otherwise, you may not hear it. Sure, there are recordings, but there’s nothing like seeing live music. Being able to interpret this kind of music in different ways, that’s a big part of why it matters to me. 

Favorite piece of music?
I like music from all eras, but Bach’s Passions are mind-blowing to me. I love them today as much as I did when I first heard them. Another amazing piece — one that we’re doing next season — is Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which is beautifully written. The last movement is over half an hour long, and it’s a real journey. The hairs on my arms stand up a little bit when I hear that, so I’m really excited to be playing it next season. 

Favorite non-classical musician?
John Coltrane. He’s one of my favorite artists to listen to, and very few people have had that kind of impact on an art form. Not only is he a tremendous musician, he just had such an impact on jazz and music on the whole. That alone puts him on a level that most people don’t ever get close to. 

First album you owned?
Led Zeppelin’s Coda. It’s probably not their finest album in my opinion, but it was the first one that I owned. And I still listen to them.

Favorite venue, other than the Schermerhorn?
I was in Switzerland once and played in the KKL in Lucerne, and that is just a beautiful venue.  

Favorite sports team?
People in Tennessee may not like this, but I’m not a Titans fan yet. I root for the New Orleans Saints. I lived in New Orleans for a little over seven years, so I’m still rooting for the Saints. I’m from New York, so of course I’m also a Yankees fan.

Favorite movie?
Even though I don’t really watch it that often, my favorite film is probably Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has amazing music, even if it wasn’t composed specifically for the film.

Favorite TV show?
If I had to pick one, it would have to be The Simpsons. There are just so many scenes and lines from the beginning of that show through the present that are embedded in my brain.

Favorite book?
It’s only in the last few years that I’ve started reading more. There’s a lot I’m trying to explore, like many of the classic books that I never read when I was younger. But at the moment, my favorite book would be Aldous Huxley’s Island. He’s obviously better known for Brave New World, which is a great book. But I’ve found Island – his last novel – even more compelling.

Favorite food?
I’m a New Yorker and my family is Italian, so pizza is the one food we measure all things against.