2016-06-10 / Schools

Musician looks forward to improvising

Teen was part of choir that sang at former first lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral in March
By Melissa Simon

Matt Latta Matt Latta At 5 years old, Matt Latta begrudgingly took his very first piano lesson.

Little did he know that session would later ignite a passion for not only playing the instrument, but also composing and arranging music. It wasn’t until about three years later that the piano took a real hold on him.

“I started taking lessons from Marina Pogosyan when I turned 8, and she had a really big influence on my life because she taught me to play really well,” said Matt, 18. “She expected a lot and pushed me to practice even more.”

When Matt turned 12, his father, Thomas, bought him his first electric bass guitar. And with that present, his love of music expanded further.

Despite playing two instruments and singing, Matt said, he does not believe music comes naturally to anyone.

“ Some people say you’re naturally talented or born with it, but you have to practice, and I’ve learned it’s OK to make mistakes,” he said. “If you don’t get it wrong, you’ll never know how to practice to get it right.”

Matt, who graduated June 2 from Santa Susana High School, said his skills have improved since his first piano recital many years ago.

“I was very nervous and only focusing on the notes,” the graduate said. “But since then, I’ve learned that I can make mistakes and just fix them quickly. I’m not as scared of making mistakes anymore.”

He said he can’t imagine pursuing a career in anything but music because it has allowed him to see life in a different way.

“I think that high school music programs are so valuable because . . . it really opens a lot of doors for students and makes them focus on all aspects of life,” he said. “It absolutely helped me in classes like chemistry or calculus, which for me were steps to get to graduation.”

Musical focus

Matt said that during his high school career one of his favorite classes was English with Cecilia Carrigan, who fostered his interest in English, specifically writing lyrics. “I think anything can be art, especially English because lyrics are made of poetry and I like to dabble in both,” the grad said.

As a freshman, Matt joined the local band After Ours, where he writes songs, plays bass and sings. He also participated in the jazz ensemble, production orchestra and Abbe Road jazz choir.

In March, Abbe Road sang at former first lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral at the Reagan Library.

“The whole time I was sitting there singing and reminding myself that it was really happening,” Matt said. “It was surreal because it felt like we were making history.”

Matt, the son of Thomas and Linda Latta, was also a member of the Southern California Regional Honor Choir, the California All-State Honor Choir and the California All-State Jazz Honor Choir.

Matt said he plans to study piano at Moorpark College before heading to a four-year university to pursue a degree in composing and arranging.

“I think creating your own music gives you another level of freedom compared to just playing someone else’s music,” he said.

Much like the improvisational nature of jazz, Matt said he has no specific plans for the next 10 years.

“I’m not sure I see myself in any specific place . . . and that’s the fun of it,” he said. “There’s no certainty I’ll become a composer because I might go somewhere else and become a jazz pianist.

“I like the uncertainties.”

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