Matthew Detrick, artistic director and violinist for The Apollo Chamber Players, is diplomatic when we ask him which he thinks came first, art or music. "I'd like to think that when some caveman was drawing on a wall, another caveman was in the corner banging on a drum." It's a trick question, of course, but one he manages to skirt nicely. Detrick, who has both his bachelor's and master's degrees of music from Rice University, started Apollo along with violinist and fellow Rice alumn,Timothy Peters. Detrick likes to call the group a "homegrown string quartet," because most of its members studied here in Houston before becoming professional musicans.
The group takes its name from both the Greek god of music and the Apollo space missions which were based in nearby NASA. "They were on to a good thing with the name back then," Detrick tells us.
The Apollo Chamber Players, set to make their Carnegie Hall debut next year, highlight the relationship between folk and classical music. It's an interest Detrick developed as a child, growing up in a family of musicians. His family - mom, dad, two younger brothers and Detrick - performed as a group at churches and nursing homes and other community venues. "My parents used to joke that my mom played the first class music, the classical music, and my dad played the second class music, the folk music. My starting a group that highlights the relationship between classical and folk music, I think, is a direct result of that experience growing up."
What He Does: "As a musician you have to do a lot of different things, performing and teaching among them," Detrick tells us. In addition to organizing and performing with the Apollo Chamber Players, he performs with the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet orchestras and is acting concert master for the Symphony of Southeast Texas, which is in Beaumont. He teaches privately as well as for the Houston Youth Symphony outreach program, the Melody Program, based at Marshall Middle School.
Why He Likes It: "I like being a musician, and in a larger sense, an artist, because I'm able to express things, [ideas], that aren't expressible in other ways. We are in the business of taking a piece of paper with some notes on it and translating that into sound, into a story. I think music can touch people; it's at the core of who we are as human beings and it's fascinating to be able to explore that."
What Inspires Him: "Being able to express music to other people, not just to entertain them, but to be able to affect them and touch them in ways that you wouldn't be able to otherwise, really inspires me. It motivates me. In music, you don't need to be able to speak the same language, and you can still get an idea, a story, across. That's fascinating to me."
If Not This, Then What:"I wanted to be an astronaut when I was growing up, I went to Space Camp when I was 12 years old, but then I realized I couldn't cut the math and physics," he laughs. "They say music helps with math and science skills, but I'm not sure how much it helped me. My father is a minister, and our church has a pretty strong pacifist stand. I've also always been interested in peace and justice issues, environmental issues, so maybe I would do something along those lines."
Detrick credits Rice University with developing the skills he needed to be more than just a well-rounded musician, but to be a well-rounded person. Along with his music studies, he took sociology, religion and philosophy classes. "Those classes prepared me to connect to other people in more ways than just music. Being a complete musician means to cope with the whole world; I learned that there."
If Not Here, Then Where: Detrick, who has performed in Japan, Panama, and Austria, as well as across the United States, says he isn't tempted to move away from Houston. "Lots of European countries have a great history of supporting the arts, and lots of great composers came from there, but Houston is still where I'd want to be. I think those are great places to visit, to absorb the culture, but I wouldn't want to make any of them home base.
"To be honest, I can't imagine doing what I do in any other city. I have a lot of friends in orchestras in other cities and I see the bad contract negotiations that they're going through. I think about my life here in Houston and how much more stable and healthy it is for the arts here. I think Houston supports the arts in ways that other cities don't. More importantly, the diversity of Houston offers us an opportunity to touch people from lots of different cultures in ways we couldn't in other cities."
What's Next: The Apollo Chamber Players have a full season of concerts coming up, the first of which is Viva Italia! at 6 p.m. on September 9 at the Duncan Recital Hall, the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. The program mixes music by Verdi and Mozart with Italian folk tunes such as "O Sole Mio."
Beyond that, the group is looking forward to its Carnegie Hall debut in October, 2013. The program, meant to reflect Houston's cultural diversity, includes Apollo-created arrangements of folk music from Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Greece. Detrick and company are currently raising funds for that performance with a Fundly campaign.
For tickets to the Viva Italia! concert, visit the Apollo Chamber Players website or call 832-496-9943. $10 to $20.
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