Thornton senior plays out of pure passion

Matthew Richards, a senior at the Thornton School of Music, is involved in multiple student bands and has played with award-winning jazz group The Yellowjackets. (Photo courtesy of Katie Sullivan)

Music has always played a major role in Matt Richards’ life — he’s been playing saxophone and woodwinds since he was 7, and the Thornton School of Music became the ideal place for him to develop his passion professionally.

“Thornton was definitely the place to go,” said the senior majoring in jazz studies (saxophone performance).

Thornton has become a catalyst for his music. Thanks to USC, he plays in two different ensembles.

“It’s really been about finding who I can make the best relationships with musically and personally, too,” he said.

But his music isn’t limited to USC. The saxophonist recently finished a show with Grammy Award-winning jazz ensemble The Yellowjackets. 

“I played a show with them in Napa Valley College,” Richards said. “That was an incredible experience for sure. The leader of that group is the chair of the Jazz Studies department. I studied with him my freshman year privately.”

Along with making connections outside of the school, Richards has also helped start a rock/hip-hop band called Cab Ellis — and has even performed at the legendary concert venue, the Troubadour. With Cab Ellis, he plays both clarinet and sax and also gets to write much of the music. 

Along with his musical endeavors, Richards still has to manage classes — and it takes hard work and late nights. 

“Something I’ve learned [to do] is looking ahead because a lot of my classes have to do with writing music and composing music, which is not a quick endeavor,” Richards said. “It really takes time to write what you have in your head.”

A music industry minor, Richards is not only preparing for a successful artistic career, but also for confronting difficult real-world scenarios — like reading and understanding contracts — on the path to success.

“With Cab Ellis, we are releasing our first song in late September, so knowing exactly where the money comes, knowing exactly what kind of deals we can make to get the song out there and really getting the hard numbers of where the money is going is helpful,” he said. “If you’re good at the business side, it allows you to be more creative because you’re able to invest in yourself.”

Richards is determined to make music his full-time occupation after leaving USC.

“[I want] to have the means to be able to do what I’m doing now,” Richards said. “In college, you have some free time to be able to rehearse until 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. My main goal is for the business to be in music, to be able to go into the studio with Cab Ellis and be creative for the whole day.”

Richards can be heard on David Ayscue’s record “Southwood Waltz” on Spotify.  Cab Ellis’ single, “Suburbia,” will be out later this month on Spotify.