Matthew Hunter: Return to the Choir Program


Choir director Matthew Hunter began working at Niles West in 2016.

By Emma Schieffer, Opinions Editor

Choir director Matthew Hunter was sitting at his piano, starting class with his choir students when I came into his room to ask him about his return back to Niles West. He took a two-year sabbatical to perform in musicals in Chicago.

Although Hunter’s performing contracts were pulled and canceled when COVID-19 hit, he took his time off to start his Master’s Degree in Music Education. He is currently cast in “Songs for a New World” which has begun rehearsals and will open within the first week of October through the Theo Ubique Theatre.

Hunter is eager for this year to begin so that he can begin teaching – or in his words – facilitate over his choirs.

Self-discovery is a major aspect of his approach to the choir program. He has nurtured a protecting and welcoming space for all choir students so that everyone can blossom to their full potential.

“My whole goal is as a teacher that I think is also part of my philosophy is to teach people how to incorporate music into their life. So when life happens, good or bad, how can music help us get through it? How can singing and analyzing a piece of music help us get through it? How can we relate to this piece of music more based on the experiences that we have and we encounter, and how do we then take that into creating other music, and create more music? It’s how we exist in our own world with music, and with singing,” Hunter said.

The community that Hunter has formulated through his teaching philosophy made his choice to take a leave very difficult.

“It was really difficult because we had a very successful choir program, booming with students, and it’s hard when you have a teacher who has such a unique philosophy like my own. When it comes to protecting and building community when you take the facilitator of that out and put a new facilitator in, you kinda have to restart, and the community is different and it changes. I think that it was hard for me to leave because I was trusting my program to someone else who the kids don’t know. The students really took it hard because they wanted their experience to be with me, only because we had built a lot of things together. We grew a lot together as individuals and this became their home,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s students praise him for the community he has grown within the choir.

“Mr. Hunter is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He’s really funny, understanding, and he really takes into account how his students are feeling. He cares a lot, which is really important and you don’t see that in a teacher anywhere else,” senior Sofia Joseph said.

“[This year] I’m looking forward to learning new music and being able to be in an environment again now after COVID, and just being able to be in the beautiful environment full of different melodies and harmonies. I feel like music just brings a lot of people peace and it’s an escape from reality even if it’s just for a moment or two,” senior Mia Stulac said.

This year, Hunter decided to let the choir do a musical production along with one of their concerts. All groups will participate and work together to put on the whole production, including choreography. “One thing that I know from having experience as a performer in the musical theater setting in Chicago is that there is nothing, in my experience, that builds a better community than a show.” Hunter said.

The production will take place during the choir fall concert on September 3rd.