Matt Jenson

Assistant Professor

"I teach the Music and Life of Bob Marley class. I've been obsessed with Bob Marley for 18 years. I have a master's degree in jazz piano, and Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk were the main reasons I decided to become a musician. But as someone who also loves groove music, all these light bulbs went off when I heard Marley. It's kind of unfortunate that his image has been oversimplified and commoditized. It's 'Let's go down on vacation to Jamaica and everything gonna be alright.' But when you get into his music, it's among the deepest social protest music on the face of the earth. That gets overlooked a lot."

"I always want to get people to understand music not just as notes, but as a life. My favorite music out there—from Miles Davis to old Carlos Santana to Monk to Bill Evans—is more about a committed life than executing scales and notes, a lot of techniques and a lot of chops. Bob Marley said at the end of 'Could You Be Loved,' 'Say something! Say something!' Even though you might be studying Bob Marley or John Coltrane, the real task, ultimately, is to figure out who you are and where you stand as a musician—why you're here. Great, you can sound just like Herbie Hancock. So? Herbie Hancock already did Herbie Hancock. Yes, it's essential to learn how to play like him or learn how Bob Marley's music works or Chick Corea's music works. You're learning your craft. But why? Who are you?"

"Any artist out there, whether they're formally trained or not, needs to go out there and learn to play like the people they're inspired by. You've got to study, develop some ability and technique, but then the great artists come out and say, 'I'm going to put it together in my own way.' And that's new, that's exciting. And I'm not saying anything about how much money you're going to get paid. It's difficult to make money as a musician, but my outlook about it is that if you are meant to be a musician, then you have to track that down, and not worry about the rest. You want to have some commercial success, but that's not the primary reason. Bob Marley's a great inspiration. He just had something to say, and it burned in him to say it."

Career Highlights


  • B.A., University of New Hampshire
  • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • Leader of the bands De3 and Matt Jenson Trio
  • Performs with Johnny Adams, Los Pleneros del Coco, Mighty Sam McClain, Mambo Combo, and Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
  • Studied with Eddie Palmieri
  • Recordings include This Is Acid Reggae: One Drops, Spirituals and Riddim