Interview by Marcy Stamper
Photography by Jamie Petitto
Brought to you by the Twisp Chamber of Commerce
Look. Listen. Feel.
Those are the central tenets of Armbrust Publishing, the new venture by Twisp-based Matt Armbrust that combines Armbrust’s diverse background as a musician, ceramic artist, and teacher to foster new musical compositions and expand arts education.
Although Armbrust took advantage of the enforced slowdown during the pandemic to launch his new publishing company, the multi-dimensional enterprise builds on artistic work he’s been doing for years.
Armbrust says he’s long been aware of the need for an outlet for composers and musicians dedicated to creating innovative new work. “There’s an oversupply of content, but an undersupply of legitimate agencies for that content,” he said.
Enter Armbrust Publishing. Armbrust is positioning the company to be a well-respected brand that musicians – from soloists to small ensembles to orchestras – will turn to for significant and stimulating new material.
Armbrust was a successful ceramic artist, producing enough pottery to keep up with demand. But composing serious music is different, and not amenable to a quick production cycle, he said.
“Publishing is a funny thing. It takes so much time and energy, making inroads to be signed by a major publisher,” he said. But most music publishing houses are looking for music that can be used for teaching, such as a series of lesson books at progressive levels of difficultly. Armbrust is interested instead in publishing serious, ambitious music geared towards professional musicians seeking novel ideas.
Armbrust understands that publishing new music isn’t enough. People need to hear the music, and live performance is crucial to conveying the affective quality of the compositions, he said.
To that end, Armbrust Publishing is sponsoring an international juried competition for new music compositions in three categories: regional (Eastern Washington), national (United States), and world. The winning compositions will be performed and recorded by the Twisp Chamber Orchestra, a group of local, national, and international musicians Armbrust has assembled to showcase this new work.
Concerts and recordings by the Twisp Chamber Orchestra will increase visibility for the winning composers and highlight the role of Armbrust Publishing in developing this new repertoire.
Armbrust organized an outdoor, courtyard concert featuring the Twisp Chamber Orchestra in Twisp last year. All the musicians are eager to return to the Methow Valley for another concert, he said.
The chamber orchestra fills an important musical niche in the valley, between Cascadia Music, which focuses on community music and education, and the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, which programs more vetted works and composers: less in the realm of the avant garde and unknowns, Armbrust said.
While the Twisp Chamber Orchestra is dedicated to performing new music, the concerts Armbrust is presenting also include more well-known music – anything from Vivaldi to Brahms – that helps contextualize the new compositions and attract a wider audience. Well-conceived programming is vital to show the lineage of the new compositions and to open audiences’ ears for more avant-garde pieces, Armbrust said.
Besides, having a live performance will increase access to artists and listeners, and make the whole experience more fun and more grassroots, he said.
Armbrust has launched a GoFundMe campaign to support the first composition competition and a concert that featuring the winners.
Armbrust also sees a role for Armbrust Publishing in developing educational materials in the fields of visual arts, music, and art criticism.
One facet of this is his own educational series, which builds on an online course he developed and taught to help visual artists and composers with their “elevator speech,” a concise description of their work and vision. The approach helps artists tailor their speech for different audiences, with versions for the general public and for artists, galleries, and arts organizations.
Another class would provide essential background for art audiences, to help people understand the complexities of fine art and serious music.
Armbrust is also planning a book that describes how to use the basic foundations of art to teach visual art and music. The method draws on his experience as an early-education teacher at Little Star School, a Montessori-based school in the Methow Valley for infants through kindergarteners.
Yet another book in the planning stages makes art criticism approachable, showing how it can grow out of people’s common, day-to-day experience, rather than be an obscure, intellectual exercise, he said.
Armbrust is confident that bringing his understanding of the market and of copyright and intellectual property law to Armbrust Publishing will make the venture a success.
Armbrust Publishing is based in Twisp, Washington. Visit their website to explore the full range of offerings from Armbrust Publishing and learn about the composition competition. You can also follow owner Matt Armbrust on Facebook and Instagram.