Pittsburgh Changemaker: Mat Docktor

By Trevor Miles

Kelly Strayhorn Theater is presenting local leaders that have been changemakers in Pittsburgh. Mentors, teachers, artists— KST acknowledges these pioneers. This is Our Story: KST Recognizes Pittsburgh Changemakers.

Soundwaves-2014-22   Mat Docktor, Soundwaves Steelband Director 


1. What do you do for the community now and why is it important?

I engage youth in music! As a resident artist at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, I direct the student ensemble Soundwaves Steelband. This dedicated group of students range in age from 13 to 19 and commute from area high schools for rehearsal at the Alloy Studios on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Learning to practice, perform, and understand music has so many benefits — all the skills used to figure out a new song, how to play a song and how that relates to affecting an audience. That’s the deeper level of what I’m trying to accomplish. I want to engage people’s consciousness through music. That’s why Soundwaves is important.


_D3_2921edit2. What is one defining moment of your life? (When you decided to do what you’re doing now).

My development as an artist was more of a progression than any one defining moment. I went on a visitation day to Mott Middle College High School in Flint, Michigan and I saw my first Steelband. There was a bunch of people playing steelpan and having fun — I knew I wanted to go to that school. Then, when I first tried the steelpan, the magical sound made me want to play it again. My first performance gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. Playing steelpan started enriching my life in so many positive ways. I truly enjoy playing it.

Developing my skills as a teacher grew out of my love for playing the instrument and performing. It came about because there was someone there who wanted to learn. Even as a young teenager I liked showing people things that I just learned. And people would show me things they learned, so that’s how being a teacher came about. It’s really about sharing knowledge and experience.


3. What advice do you want to share with the youth that want to become a changemaker in their community?

Figure out who you are and be yourself. Do something you love! Pursue your passions. Collaborate. Accomplishing goals takes teamwork, persistence, patience and perseverance. Believe in yourself. You can do it!



4. What is a song on your playlist? (A song that motivates and drives you?)

Jammin by Bob Marley. I like his music because he was a changemaker. His music transcends time through its message of peace and love. Most people think this song is about jamming on an instrument, but what he really meant was more along the lines of hanging out together and feeling “so good in my neighborhood”. My favorite line in the song is, “Jah children must unite: Your life is worth much more than gold.”

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