Matt Martin ‘07 earned his bachelor’s degrees in jazz studies and political science from Northwestern and his JD from Harvard Law School. He is currently serving his first term as alderman of the 47th Ward in Chicago. Prior to being elected alderman, he worked as a civil rights lawyer at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?

When I was applying to colleges, I prioritized schools that offered strong double-degree programs in music and the liberal arts. Due in part to the School of Music’s tradition of training strong jazz and classical saxophonists, as well as the University’s proximity to the world-class music city that is Chicago, I knew Northwestern was the school for me immediately upon reading my acceptance letter.

Which professor influenced you most during your time at the Bienen School of Music?

Although I had the benefit of learning from a number of terrific professors, no pedagogue had a more profound and positive impact on my education than Frederick Hemke—the school’s longtime professor of saxophone, who passed away in 2019. Whether it was his uncompromising demand for improvement and excellence, the genuine interest he took in the life of each and every student, or the warmth and generosity he displayed in cultivating a true family of saxophonists that spanned decades, Dr. Hemke was a remarkable man. I will be forever thankful for his tutelage and his friendship.

How has your music education benefited you in your work and life?  

At least two things come to mind immediately. First, it really helped me understand effective time management and goal setting. Knowing that I may have things I want to accomplish in the near term, the mid-term, and the long term—and how to work backwards from all of those things to put together my daily schedule and execute as much as I’m able—has been hugely valuable. Second is making sure I’m checking in with myself to ensure that, as I’m working towards accomplishing those goals, I don’t lose sight of the need to enjoy what I’m doing.

What lesson did you learn at Bienen that has continued to resonate with you in your career?

Take delight in the work and success of others as much as your own.

Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)

Branford Marsalis, Requiem
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
Ayub Ogada, En Mana Kuoyo

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