April 9, 2009
For Immediate Release
CAMPBELLSVILLE UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENT, MATT HODGE, PRESENTS ‘PRODIGAL’
By Christina Miller, student news writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Matt Hodge thought he had reached the pinnacle when his musical produced an encore last year, but the play of his life is only beginning as this Campbellsville University graduate student prepares the second musical in his career.
Hodge, of Louisville, Ky., who resides in Taylorsville, Ky., has been commissioned by Campbellsville University to compose and direct a second musical, Prodigal, for spring 2009. The musical is in conjunction with his enrollment in the master of arts in music program at Campbellsville University.
Last year, Hodge said he and his cast went into producing the musical, “Just a Breeze to a Hurricane,” without any expectations. “But it became a big deal which was both humbling and exciting. We were glad it was something people didn’t forget about in a week. People are still coming up to me asking about it and the new play,” he said.
This year’s musical, Prodigal, is a “180-degree opposite” from last year’s musical, Hodge said.
Prodigal is based on the biblical passage of the prodigal’s son.
“Biblical parables have very theatrical stories past the surface of the Christian message,” Hodge said, “but I wanted to make the story more modern, not 500 B.C.”
The prodigal’s son tells the beginning and end of the story, but Hodge decided to make up what happens in between with a “modern interpretation.”
“The musical Prodigal is more mature and has more drama which shows my range as a composer,” Hodge said.
He decided to go opposite in order to eliminate comparisons between the two musicals.
Hodge said last year’s musical “Just a Breeze to a Hurricane” was a romantic comedy based on the college experience and it is a musical “everyone in college can relate to.”
After working on his first musical for two months, Hodge had completed the first draft with 11 songs. Four months later he finished the final script consisting of 17 original songs. Hodge completed all of the music and lyrics himself.
Otto Tennant, vice president for finance and administration at Campbellsville University, and a “huge fan” of Hodge’s work, said, “It’s amazing to listen to the music and think ‘This came out of Matt’s head?’ The music is catchy.”
Dr. Frieda Gebert, associate professor of music and musical director, said, “It’s been fun to watch him tackle a drama this year. I was actually a bit worried when he first described the plot to me, afraid it was too heavy, but after hearing the music and watching the fantastic dancing, I changed my mind.
“Matt is different in his ability to write in such a wide variety of styles. His show contains every style of music from salsa to boogie-woogie. Each song sounds completely different.”
Erica Moon, assistant to the director of theater, said, “The music fits the dramatic theme of the story really well.”
This year the musical will not have a live orchestra, but instead Hodge has prerecorded a CD. He did this with a special computer program for writing music.
“This play requires bigger instrumentation and you can’t do that with a small orchestra,” Hodge said. Also, without him conducting it will allow the audience to pay more attention to the “seriousness of the stage.”
Tennant was amazed at Hodge’s creativity in putting an entire musical together.
He said, “Matt not only writes the music, he plays the music, writes the words and thinks through how it will fit together. He’s young but talented to put it together and make it work.
“He’s a playwright. What else could you call him?”
Gebert said Hodge’s talent is “unusual.”
She said, “First, he writes the book, the script, and the music; that is highly unusual. Most composers work with a lyricist who writes the words… and no one writes their own story!”
Hodge came to Campbellsville University originally as a music education major.
“I wanted to be a high school band director, come back to my high school and take over my old band director’s job,” he said.
As a teenager in high school, Hodge played trumpet in concert band and he had even began writing concert band music.
Six months into the program, however, Hodge discovered music education was not the right fit for him. He then became a music theory and composition major, sticking with it until graduation.
Because of this new major he also became involved in musical theater, something he had always loved. His parents began taking him to plays from a young age to show there was more to entertainment than simply television. Now he sees plays at least twice a year.
“I’ve been seeing plays ever since I can remember,” Hodge said. “Annie and Grease are the first I can remember.”
Wicked is one of his favorites musically, but Hairspray is the “most fun” play he has seen.
Hodge said Campbellsville University helped to “shift my vision.” He said he didn’t know what he would do after college, but “God opened my eyes” a month before graduating.
“Music is the only thing constant in my life,” Hodge said. Since the age of seven, he knew music would always be in his life.
Hodge began playing piano at a young age because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his sister, Stephanie. “She quit, but I stuck with it,” Hodge said.
Hodge’s emphasis at Campbellsville University was in piano composition. He now makes a living playing the piano by writing songs for weddings and other occasions.
“It’s a cool gift to write a personal song,” he said. “I was bombarded around Christmas because so many people wanted to give a song as a gift.”
His most popular package includes writing the song, sheet music, recording the song with a singer and a piano accompaniment.
Hodge’s ultimate goal is to put his plays on Broadway. On a more realistic level, however, his goal is to make a living writing musicals; he would be happy with that. “I never thought it would be something I could actually do,” he said.
Tennant said, “It would be neat to see Matt’s work on Broadway someday and say, ‘Hey, I know him.’”
Right now, last year’s musical is being looked at by a publishing company in New York City. He is working on a copyright for the musical. Hodge hopes to publish his musical and eventually sell it.
According to Hodge’s blog, he said, “As a director of two musicals now, I have been so overwhelmingly blessed with two years of amazing, dedicated casts. They are allowing me to see my dream come to life with every rehearsal.”
Hodge plans on bringing a third musical to Campbellsville University in 2010 since he will still be working toward his master’s degree.
“When I was little I only dreamed of making millions and being famous. Now that dream has changed and become more realistic—to make a living, be happy and satisfied with what I’m doing,” Hodge said. “Music is the biggest focus in my life and I can’t imagine life without it.”
For more information on Hodge or his musicals, visit www.matthodge.com.
Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,601 students who represent 93 Kentucky counties, 27 states and 31 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2009 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South for the second consecutive year. CU has been ranked 16 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his tenth year as president.