The Falcon Voice

Interview: William Mattison

Jacob Brandt, Editor-in-Chief

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JACOB: So I would like to start off this meeting with a few general questions such as “who are you?” and “what do you teach?”

MATTISON: Sure. My name is Mr. Mattison and I am the chorus teach here at Catalina Foothills High School. This is my first year teaching at Catalina Foothills and my third or fourth year teaching overall. I’ve been directing choirs since I was fourteen, so this is my sixteenth year directing a choir.

JACOB: And where did you teach before here?

MATTISON: I taught in Montgomery County Schools in Washington, D.C.

JACOB: Why did you move all the way out here to Tucson?

MATTISON: Actually, to study at the University of Arizona and obtain my doctorate in choir conducting, so I am a student much like you.

JACOB: What would you say as a choir director and conductor, your largest challenge has been so far?

MATTISON: Within any given structure, it’s all about balance. Making sure you are making decision in your life that reflect on your music. — Performances require you to be able to be actively engaged with your audience all the time, not just during performance but afterwards as well: Talking to people and always making sure you are reflecting the music in the most positive way. It’s always a challenge to make sure you are not overly negative about something, or not overly positive, but try to remain as humble and objective.

JACOB: What inspired you to become a choir teacher– conductor?

MATTISON: I mean, yeah, I didn’t know what I expected when I walked into this world. I started going to be a sports commentator and I had a teacher in high school come stop me and said I should really try thinking about music as a future, “you’re really good at it.” I thought, well I don’t know, I’ll see; and I started exploring it a bit more, one thing led to another and I began to get more involved in my hometown in Pennsylvania and I started to really enjoy it. Following that I had another teacher stop me and asked if I heard of this college she attended over the summer. I said, “No, I haven’t.” At the time I already had my mind set on going to Kate University in Pittsburgh; I was dead set on studying music technology.

JACOB: Why did you decide to change your plan?

MATTISON: I went to visit the college in New Jersey– I fell in love with it and it was the best experience I could ever pay for. It was a great four years.

JACOB: What is your philosophy towards work? And how do you motivate others?


MATTISON: The best part about being in Catalina Foothills High School is that the student come in already motivated. Each and every day they are already ready to get to work, so it’s my job to make sure they go even further and go deeper into it and think about solutions they haven’t thought of or to pair things in way they could not imagine before. And to ultimately get them to think a little differently and keep them on their toes– and that’s what keeps me engaged as well. I wake up every day so happy to be here because the students students are just so motivated.

JACOB: How many students do you teach?

MATTISON: One-hundred and twenty.

JACOB: That’s quite a lot, and that’s just in choir?

MATTISON: Yeah, and music theory as well.

JACOB: Did you apply these philosophies when you attended university?

MATTISON: No, actually. And I’ve told my students this before that the students that I work with at the University of Arizona, most who came from Arizona schools that weren’t as successful in music arenas as Catalina Foothills, I put a lot of notice on elementary and middle school teachers who are doing fantastic work all the way across the board. They are motivated, keep the students in good structure, and once they have made their way onto high school, they are making good sounds, good quality music, and doing a lot of great things.

JACOB: One of the students in theatre class told me you had some interesting stories from before you came here.


JACOB: No, no. It was this student, she told me, “Ask him about where he worked before and how that was. I know he has told me a lot of wild stories.”


+Mr. Mattison goes to the room next door to invite this student in.

MATTISON: What did you tell this child about my past?

STUDENT: Nothing.

MATTISON: What stories did I tell you that I should share with him?

STUDENT: Oh! How you wound up here…


STUDENT: Cat Foot. Like teaching here. I lost two roommates and my golf buddy and two dogs.

MATTISON: (Laughing) And all in the same summer! I lost everything I had!

STUDENT: Also, how you got your teaching degree. And I think those were the two things I said. I think that was it. How you got here.

MATTISON: So I had to have a church job and I could not afford to stay in Tucson and the teacher here told me that she was moving. So I was friends with her.

JACOB: Ms. Sights?

MATTISON: Yeah, her husband and I were also really good friends, so essentially when the job opened up, I decided to go for it and that is essentially how I wounded up here.

JACOB: So you lost two roommates, two dogs–

MATTISON: They also had a cat and a dog I got attached to and then, when they moved, it was difficult transitioning: moving, getting this new job, and I still got things to pack in, so I’m still working on things. So it’s been a crazy transition but it has been all for the positive.

JACOB: And that was all this year?

MATTISON: All in the last two months.

JACOB: That’s sounds very exciting.

MATTISON: (Laughing)

JACOB: Oh, have you ever been confused for Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison character in the movie of the same name? Are you like the real-life version of this character?

MATTISON: (Laughing) All the time on a daily basis! Unfortunately, I don’t chase penguins.

JACOB: What? (Laughing) What is the general plot of the movie?

MATTISON: Billy is essentially handed everything throughout his life, so when his father was going to leave his hotel business, he realised Billy had no hotel management skills or knowledge and was basically left to leave the business open-ended. Eventually, Billy’s father was going to leave the company to a corrupt guy who working for him. The thing is, Billy was supposed to go back to school to get his degree and skills– all of his school, each grade, had to be passed in twelve weeks time so he could get the hotel business.

JACOB: Would you say you the real-life version of this character?

MATTISON: Oh no! (Laughing) In different ways. I mean, I’ve found a way to earn what I believe and fight for it on a daily basis. I don’t let life pass me by.

JACOB: What plans do you have for the future?

MATTISON: Right now, I really want to focus on building this program and I also run the choir at a church in Oro Valley that I am working with right now as well.

JACOB: Would you say working at the church is similar to working here? What do you do there?

MATTISON: At the church I work as the director of music and liturgy, helping volunteers frequently and making sure they are in good spirits and loving what they do. Making sure if anything can be remedied, it will be. And so I don’t just oversee the music program, but also the weekend liturgy for the four different masses. So I’m kept pretty busy; always on my toes.

JACOB: Okay, and to conclude this interview, I have one more question for you: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

MATTISON: Keep practicing. You are never perfect, take some time to give yourself credit, learn about yourself, the music, and enjoy the comradery that comes with the clock work, but never stop honing your skills.

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Interview: William Mattison