Matthew Sperry Departs

The world has lost a shooting star. Matthew Sperry was hit by a car while on his bicycle this morning, and left this earth shortly after. In addition to being a wonderful father to two-year-old Lila Simone and husband to our good friend (and doula) Stacia, Matthew was an incredible bass player, a rising star who appeared on Tom Waits’ last two albums (and an accompanying David Letterman show), the last Anthony Braxton record, David Byrne’s “Feelings,” a fantastic Black Cat Orchestra recording called “Mysteries Explained,” and on and on. His resume tells the story.

Matthew also played bass / chorus member for half a year in the San Francisco production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, not because it paid well, but because he loved the story, loved the outrageousness of it all. Even if it meant having black fingernails and traces of eyeliner by daylight for months on end (check his fingernails in the play-dough image below).

I’ve got one of Matthew’s older avante garde recordings with an outfit called “Impossible Underpants” (his comment denying that Impossible Underpants ever existed is here), and Matthew’s bent for comical strangetude is all over it. Matthew was also the mastermind behind Los Platanos Machos Quattros, the four-piece guitar outfit we put together for Roger’s 40th birthday, just to create and sing one song. Matthew was a trip, relentlessly creative.

I also have a CD by “The Matthew Sperry Trio,” only Matthew isn’t on it — it’s a quartet comprised of musician friends of his, who just wanted to name themselves “The Matthew Sperry Trio.” Inside, the liner notes are plastered with pictures of him as teen idol, pinup boy, clean-shaven, short hair. The centerfold pictures him naked, holding a stuffed frog. This is how Matthew affected the people around him – his sweet, slightly surrealistic sense of humor was inspiring and contagious.

As Amy said, when he saw you, he hugged you, and he hugged you good, like he was really really happy to see YOU. He called me once while sick, flat on his back, just to chat, reaching out toward friendship even at his lowest. He worked so hard to feed his family, was always so full of good cheer and crazy ideas. I can’t believe he’s gone. Nothing anyone can say or do can rewind the moment, change the fact that a shining star has blinked out for good.

Seeing his giant standup bass cases around Stacia and Lila’s house today was hard. Larger than life, they stood in corners like proxies for Matthew, just hanging out with us, maybe laughing, maybe plucking, slapping, sawing at their own strings. I don’t have any good pictures of Matthew playing, but here’s a good one (playing with Dan Plonsey — a Bay Area composer and improvisor with whom Matthew played often — they shared a strong aesthetic).

Our hearts go to Stacia and Lila, who have the hardest road of grieving in front of them. I hope that Lila is old enough to one day have a glimmer of memory of her wonderful father.

Dazed, I picked up a book of Chuang Tzu’s writings off the top of a packing stack tonight, and opened up to this line:

How do I know that the dead do not wonder why they ever longed for life?

We pray that Matthew is at peace, happy, making amazing music somewhere.

Updates: The Oakland Tribune ran a brief memorial piece on Matthew. The SF Chronicle had another.

If you would like to leave flowers or memoria at the accident site, this map will get you there. Stacia’s friend Erika (who is being a rock through all of this, valiantly holding things together) asks any camera-oriented folk to please photograph whatever gets placed at the site.

Bassist Mike Watt dedicated the encore of the final show of his “the cord that spun its own top” tour to Matthew.

A memorial concert for Matthew will be held June 19 and all are invited. This information has gone out on the newswire.

Matthew’s memorial took place Monday, June 9 at 1:00 in Oakland. A summary of the memorial service is here. The program guide can be downloaded in PDF format.

If you are in the New York City area, a memorial will take place Saturday, June 14, at 4pm in in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Sheri Cohen plans to go to Volunteer Park in Seattle at 9:30 PM on Tuesday, June 10 to remember Matt. She invites all who would like to join her to meet at the ‘donut’ and all can go off to a quiet place together.

LeapFrog, Matthew’s last employer, is setting up a college fund for Lila through Bank of America. Details are still pending and will be posted here as soon as they are available.

In the following days, Shiva will continue at Stacia and Matthew’s home. Please feel free to visit during the day. Stacia would love to see you. Shiva will end on Father’s Day, with a memorial walk leaving from Stacia and Matthew’s home at 4:00 p.m.

The memorial service for Matthew Sperry was held at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland California on Monday June 9th from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.

The Chapel of the Chimes
at the Entrance to the the Mountain View Cemetery
4499 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611-4218

The family is declining flowers and would like any donations sent to a fund for Lila’s education. More information will be available regarding the fund on Monday. There will be an opportunity to make statements at the service if you would like to prepare anything ahead of time. For those of you traveling via a bereavement flight, the funeral director is Edward Bell (510) 654-0123. Those of you in the New York Area should contact Marna Schoen to coordinate a New York area memorial.

Matthew’s memorial concert will be on June 19th. Details here.

320 thoughts on “Matthew Sperry Departs

  1. I had the incredible experience of playing in SEXO with Matt. Improvising was new to me and he always made me feel like I was welcome with his singular sense of humor. Matt had this contagious openness to everything which energized every experience with him. He gave so much of himself as a musician and as a human being. Years after SEXO, I ran into Matt again in the Seattle Creative Orchestra. There was that HUG like he had just seen you yesterday. My brief experience with Matt emphasized how alive he is. That’s how I will always think of him. Love and best thoughts to those closest to him, Stacia and Lila.

  2. Stacia, Lila,
    I am saddened and shocked to hear of Matthew’s death. I worked with him a bit at Virage and knew him as a kind and gentle soul. When I was expecting my child, Matthew shared a wonderful and warm happiness of the arrival of his daughter born a little before my son. He touched many people with his spirit and this lives on.
    Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason(loving attentive babysitting for example).

  3. Matthew Sperry was my cousin.
    I thought that he was my 2nd cousin, but I have since learned that the proper term is 1st cousin once removed.
    Under the circumstances that brought me here, I find that phrase extremely ironic as once removed is one time too many when it comes to my cousin Matthew.
    I have a picture back in Boston from 1981 of Matthew playing saxophone with my Dad.
    The picture has always made me smile as my Dad was always at his happiest when he was either playing with good musicians like Matthew or listening to good music.
    It would bring tears to his eyes and I always suspected that those tears were brought on from the rush of pleasant memories that music allowed him to reexperience.
    I cherish that picture even more now.
    I remember swelling with pride when I saw Matthew playing with Tom Waits on the Letterman Show and hearing of all of his musical accomplishments.
    Matthew’s legacy of music will always allow his family and friends to reexperience their feelings for Matthew.
    Music is eternal and so too are the individuals who create it, celebrate it and practice it
    and Matthew was an orthodox practitioner of music.
    My only regret is that time and distance kept Matthew and me from getting to know each other better.
    However, the tributes on his memory website afford me the opportunity to get to know him better through his friends’ remembrances and messages of their sadness, their grief and their love for him.
    As Emily Dickinson said, “my friends are my estate” and my cousin Matthew is blessed with one very large estate.

  4. Last fall, I was one of the dozen or so people who tried out for the bassist part in the San Francisco production of Hedwig & The Angry Inch.

    It was a long afternoon, and as I sat in my chair watching the other musicians run through their numbers, I took note of the one and only guy in the theater who actually took the time to put on full glam makeup. I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first. And it wasn’t until he walked up to the edge of the stage that I even realized he was a bass player. But the moment he started playing it was obvious–at least in my mind–who was going to get the part.

    I also kept feeling as though there was something familiar about him, and after a few minutes I finally figured out what it was: underneath his vest he was wearing an ancient T-shirt for a Tallahasse band called “Gruel.”

    I am from Tallahassee.
    All the guys in that band are my friends.
    And I know for a fact there couldn’t be more than 25 of those particular shirts on the entire planet…

    So the minute he stopped playing, I walked up and said, “First, you were really, really good. Second, you’re going to have to explain to me how it is that you’re wearing a 15-year old t-shirt for a band that nobody outside the Florida panhandle has ever heard of?”

    It was the start of a very sweet conversation.

    Within a few minutes, we realized we had a bunch of friends in common, and we both laughed at the synchronicity of the moment. I also told Matthew I was sure he was going to get the part–that he totally deserved it.

    We traded phone calls and a few emails over the next couple months… saying we should get together and so forth. But I hadn’t seen him this year until the final performance of Hedwig. We talked for a while at the after party, and I had a great time meeting Stacia and Lila. When it came time for me to leave, I said that I looked forward to seeing him again soon, and made my goodbyes. I know it sounds strange, but I really felt as though I was going to know Matthew for a long, long time…you just get that feeling with some people.

    In any event, I want to offer my condolonces to all who knew and loved him–especially his family. Although I didn’t know Matthew well, it doesn’t take long to know you’re in the presence of a genuine, sweet, human being–and I can see by the posts here that those qualities were echoed by all those he counted as friends and loved ones.

    -Jonathan Lammers

  5. To Stacia, Lila and family,

    As I sit and read through all of the wonderful sentiments posted here I am reminded of some great memories of Matthew. I was included into his wonderful world by my sister and her special friendship with Stacia – fun events with the Baby Posse, Milo, Noah, Lila, Morgan, Silas.

    My first and best memory of Matthew was on July 4th, 2001. Our families lived around the corner from one another and we celebrated on that warm evening together, Matthew made me try tofu and I liked it for the first time.
    The fireworks started in downtown Oakland and we scrambled for a good place to watch – we decided their front stoop wasn’t quite high enough for a clear view. Matthew suggested the roof. There I was, helping to clear items out of the closet to get through a tiny opening in the ceiling into the attic. We jumped from joist to joist looking for a passage to the roof. Too high for me to reach, I bid him farewell. He struggled a bit and made it through, happy in his truimph – the skies celebrating his victory.
    He told me everything when he came down, about the colors and the shapes and the sounds – painted a picture beautiful enough that I felt that I was there with him.

    That’s our job now. Everyone that was fortunate enough to know Matthew has a story to tell, a picture to paint – something to share. We are here for you Stacia, Lila and family, here to share all the wonderful memories we have.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you Stacia and Lila, my love to you both.


  6. We’ve been hit by waves of intense emotion since hearing of Matt’s passing – in the years since he’s left Seattle, we’ve only seen him occasionally, and so it almost seems like he’s still down in California, playing music somewhere – not gone. But then to think we’ll never get an email from him or a call that he’ll be in town… it breaks my heart. We can only imagine how hard this is for you, Stacia and Lila. We’ll never forget the amazingly beautiful, generous, supportive, talented, loving Matthew.

    Love – Julija & Jesse, Seattle

  7. A Memory of Matthew Sperry
    from his visit to Bialowieza Poland
    in October 1998
    Remembered by Eunice Blavascunas

    Matthew arrived with a wound; a slight cut on his index finger from his pocket knife, which he had used to slice a roll of bread at the bus station. I attended to his finger with an alacrity reserved for important officials. Right to it! “Where is the first aid kit?” I charged about the halls of my institute, the former bureaucratic center for Czar Nicholas’ hunting forays. The two cleaning ladies, Ella and Helena, came to my aid quickest, interrupting their afternoon tea to attend to my distinguished guest. The cut was hardly serious. It appeared superficially deep and most of the blood had been dabbed away already. But I was so touched by his need. Somebody finally needed me. I could move from being the dependent foreigner to the delegating expert. “Find Matthew a bandaid!”
    Matthew’s appearance meant the world to me and assisting him in this small way took on elevated importance. Ella and Helena pulled a painted tin from the chemistry lab cabinets and asked all of these questions of Matthew. “Does it hurt?” “How did this happen?” “Did you wash it well?” “Do you need some tabletki” (the standard word for any medication such as aspirin or antibiotics)? Matthew nodded no and a chortled. His cut was only a pretext for the rest of us to demonstrate our enthusiasm for the visitor from the outside.

    Bialowieza really was the end of the world and Matthew, who had been touring on the long string instrument in Prague and Berlin, came to visit. A trip to Bialowieza required Matthew to take an overnight train from Prague to Warsaw and then spend most of the day hopping a series of local buses to the very last bus stop on the Easternmost out post in Poland, just a km from the Belarusian border. On one of his layovers in the industrial logging town of Hajnowka he waited on a bench for some time. This is where he cut himself picknicking on Polish rye.

    He added that some elderly gentlemen on the bench beside him had mistaken him for a Pole. They struck up a conversation addressed at Matthew, who naturally wasn’t privy to the local dialect, known as “tutejszy”, (akin to “hillbilly” talk). Matthew, Stacia tells me, has the uncanny ability to look at home everywhere he goes and is often mistaken for a local. After the men discovered Matthew’s “otherness”, they offered a banana and assisted him with the transfer bus to my village. I thought it miraculous that he found his way. I had no phone at my house and limited email access. Not knowing when he might arrive I left a note tacked to the door of my house directing him to my institute of forestry research.

    I beamed when the secretary escorted him to my office. There is nothing like isolation and homesickness to make the arrival of an old friend an extraordinary occasion. After we bandaged Matthew I took him to my cottage to share all of my meager provisions, such as kale, potatoes, and kefir, which Matthew, who had been needing the simplicity of home cooking, ate up voraciously. With Matthew to share them with, the vegetables and soured milk tasted even more enjoyable. He offered his “ritter sport” German chocolate for desert and we talked long into the evening, which came early in October. We talked of life and choices and love and friendship. I don’t remember all of the details, only that the exchange was meaningful and that Matthew was both generous and adventurous to travel so far out of his way to such an unglamorous location.

    He spent two nights, three days, in which time we never grew tired of talking. Nothing particularly eventful happened during the course of the visit. I took him back to the industrial town of Hajnowka to an open air market. I bicycled with him to the Belarusian border and invited him in to sample the honey of my beekeeper neighbor, who called him a girl because of his long hair. Matthew wasn’t fond of his honey. When Matthew departed he left with me a tape of the iv bricoleurs that I listened to carefully never quite “got”.

    We all wish so dearly that Matthew’s only injury were a small cut that could be doted over and fixed by Polish cleaning women and some “tabletki,” but the circumstances are much more calamitous. We all miss him but the moments in which we felt blessed by him will sustain us as we go about restructuring our lives around his absence. Stacia and Matthew invited me into their house three months ago to live for a while. I found encouragement in knowing that I had a community in Oakland that cared about me. Matthew and Stacia cooked meals with me and partook of my travails as I of theirs. I am so lucky to have spent so much time with Stacia, Matthew and Lila during the months leading up to this tragedy. I love you Stacia, Matthew and Lila.

  8. dearest stacia,
    as far away as i am from you and as long as it has been since we last spoke or saw each other, discovering this news tonight has me in tears. i am so sorry for your loss. i remember meeting matthew long ago when i ran into the two of you on college avenue. you had both just taken a tantra class with kami and were glowing with love and connectedness. may your amazing spirit and incredible strength see you through this difficult time. you and your beautiful lila are in my thoughts. lots of love to you, zoe (in ann arbor)

  9. Matt Sperry was one of my very favorite people during the time we studied music at Florida State University in Tallahassee in the late 1980s and early ’90s. We had similar musical interests, and played and ate together often. The recent, tragic news brought back many memories of Matt (who I haven’t seen in over 10 years) for me. The first thing I thought of when I was forwarded that email with the news that Matt had been killed while riding a bicycle was that he had helped me to buy one upon my arrival in Tallahassee.

    When I came to FSU as a freshman without a car, Matt generously offered to drive me to the local Wal-Mart so I could buy a cheap mountain bike–which I ended up using for my entire four years there. I remember him taking it for a test drive around the parking lot that day.

    Another time, he explained what I should do if I ever caught someone trying to steal my bike. “You have to act totally crazy and out of control,” he told me. Then, method acting, he showed me exactly what to tell the would-be thief, yelling maniacally while shaking his hands in the air: “WHAT THE F— ARE YOU DOING??!!??” He showed me several times so I would get it just right. This would almost certainly scare the person off, he told me. (My bike was stolen several years later, after all, but, as I didn’t catch the thief in the act, I never got to try his advice. But I never forgot it.)

    Matt has always epitomized, for me, the modern-day musician who is interested in, and can do, everything well. In Tallahassee he played bass pans in the steel band, electric bass in rock bands (although he always preferred playing the double bass), West African drumming, singing, and dancing (he actually did a very athletic solo dance one year), fretless electric bass in the salsa band, classical double bass, improvised and avant-garde music with the New World (Music) Ensemble, and probably a lot of other things I can’t remember. He always played with great focus, intensity, and creativity. I remember one day he brought in a version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” he had just recorded on a 4-track, done entirely with multi-tracked electric basses. Another time, he played a piece for double bass using intervals in increments of 1/3 of a half step, mindblowing for all of us other musicians for the amount of practice that took to pull off. It was always fun to hear about his ever-expanding musical activities out West. Like everyone else, I was so excited to see him play with Tom Waits on the David Letterman show.

    I’ll tell one last story, which I’m not sure why I remember, but somehow seems worth sharing. One day, Matt was walking down the sidewalk on Tennessee Street in Tallahassee, enjoying the day and carrying a bucket full of sweet muscadine grapes he had collected on the farm he was living on, just across the Georgia line. A homeless man approached Matt and told him he needed money, as he was hungry. Matt told the man that he didn’t have any money, but showed him his bucket of muscadines and told him he could have as many as he wanted. Rather than accepting his generosity, the man instead looked at Matt like he was crazy and yelled back, “I don’t want that! I want meat!!!”

    Matt, you were an amazing musician and a great guy. Many of us still can’t believe or understand that you aren’t here with us physically right now, but I know that all the positive energy (musical and otherwise) that you shared is going going to continue for a long, long time. Thanks also to the person(s) who created this website.

  10. I have been friends with Matthewís mother, Harriet, for almost 25 years. Over these many years has grown an intimacy and fondness for Harriet and her entire family: parents, sisters, children, grandchildren and nieces. I feel that I am a part of her family. I have always been there to advise, participate and share in all the joy and anguish that one usually does as a member of a family. Over the years, I have seen Matthew grow from a boy to a man. I have had the pleasure of sharing in all the wonderful accomplishments of his life, either in person or through the eyes of Harriet. Matthew only brought joy and happiness to his family and to the rest of the world. There was a spirit of goodness, concern and compassion that was with him his entire life. This spirit is what helped make Matthew unique. I can not recall ever seeing Matthew sad or angry. Only happy and optimistic. Matthewís tragic death has brought me to tears on a daily basis. As I am typing this memoriam to Matthew I am weeping. Weeping over the fact that Matthew accomplished so much in such a short time, that the world will never know how much more he was going to add if he was still here. Weeping over the senselessness of his death by an irresponsible person. Weeping over the pain that so many people, including myself, are going through at this time. But, when I am down and in tears I remind myself that Matthew was very spiritual and optimistic and that from his life I have learned to go for your dreams and aspirations in a good nature fashion, not to dwell on the bad. I know that Matthewís spirit will be with me as I go forward with time.

  11. Matt was a musician whose spirit permeated his music and his musical beliefs. I was never able to think of Matt as a “bass player” but rather as a great musician who played the bass. His creative and spiritual energy were always devoted to that moment when music was being made. That’s rare.

    My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. He was too good for this world and was needed elsewhere. Everybody—play, play, play, and, give, give, give. Don’t stop.

    Peace Matt.

    Ed Pias

  12. I knew Matt in high school — he was a senior, I was a sophmore — we were in the Jazz Band together. Even then, he was a true musician with an amazing talent and passion for his art.

    The music I love today — which is such a large part of my life — was easily and directly influenced by what I learned from Matt.

    It’s funny. There are people you knew for years — neighbors, coworkers, school mates — who are quickly forgotten. But then there are people who enter your life for such a brief time — one short year during high school — and their memory stays with you for a lifetime.

    My deepest sympathies and condolences to Matthew’s family and friends. May his memory be a comfort and an everlasting source of joy.

    Leslie Hope Byer Rosner

  13. My condolences to Matt’s friends and family.
    I heard the horrible news from my older brother, who heard it from my little brother, Jason, who was closer in age/grade to Matt in high school. Jason was friends with Matt’s high school friends and kept us abreast of his acclomplishments in a “local boy makes good” sort of way.
    I was a senior at nmb when Matt got to high school and I remember him just being around the music and drama scene. I remember just a real nice kid, very enthused about music. From all the posts on this site I’m sorry not to have known him as he evolved from the youngster into the life force he obviously became as he grew older.
    I played drums in high school in a trio with Larry Marotta for just a couple of gigs. A coffee house and battle of the bands. We played King Crimsons Lark’s tongues in Aspic and Hendrix’s Third stone from the Sun, and something else I forget. Matt just about jumped out of his skin when he heard us play that “wild ” stuff.He came up to me after the gig ( I think he ran sound or lights for the show) and said he was Blown away that anyone was playing this stuff.
    Well, it must have made quite an impact considering how his life turned out.
    I saw Matt a couple of times in Tallahassee.I also went to FSU.
    The last time I had the pleasure of seeing Matt, I drove up from gainesville to see Adrain Belew at a show in Atlanta . Must have been about 1989 or ’90. Matt picked me out of a crowd to say Hi. We chatted for a few minutes after the show.
    What a nice guy!
    Mike Tenzer

  14. I could not have dreamed of a more perfect partner and lover for my most beloved friend . Matthew you are not only beautiful, in every way, but you are THE ideal. You are what we should all strive to be. Your life and death has changed the way I live my life. And for that I thank you.

    Erica Blue

  15. My name is Bebe Risenfors. I participated on Tom Waits¥ two latest albums “Alice” and “Blood Money”. At the recording venue for these I met, and played together with, Matt. We played together for a couple of days and that is not enough to create a real friendship, but I realised the potential for this…now I hear it¥s too late…it breaks my heart… It was great playing with Matt… My only guess is that The Great Orchestra Leader up there has a challenging thing coming and he wants to round up the best… My thoughts are with his family…

    Lots of love from Bebe
    Stockholm, Sweden

  16. I knew Matthew in Seattle, partly from his gigs there but mostly from meeting him on the streets and talking; much was said in short bursts of time. Signals flashing between us. Then I moved to Berkeley. When he moved here, I took it as a good omen, that maybe something important (alive) was happening in the Bay area. His high spirits, always upfront. Always upfront. Seems to me he’s still around. Good night, Matthew. See you around.

  17. hello all…these comments amaze me. i met matthew at hedwig twice and i can’t believe how much his death affected me. he was warm and special and we compared notes on being daddies to little girls. he encouraged me as i am a struggling musician. i like this world a lot less now that he is gone, even though i barely knew him…

  18. I met Matt in October of 2002 at the auditions for Hedwig. Over those first weeks of rehearsal, without even knowing much about Matt’s life outside The Victoria, we became friends. Matt of course was an excellent musician but it was his personality and passion for music, family and life that gave him a spark you noticed right away – on and off stage. His eagerness to make something perfect, his tenacity and his willingness to be outspoken served him well. Working on a show is an intense experience for a new group of people. You become really close really fast. By the time I returned to New York in December, I had made a good friend in Matt and we had shared some great moments. He made me laugh and he impressed me everyday. I’ll never forget our Amoeba Records appearance when Matt turned to the side stage, ignoring the audience completely, to play for Lila (who in the green room had been a little confused by who this alter ego was!). It was all things great about Matt summed up into one brief moment. He always had his priorities straight and the world respected him for it. He lived each moment to the fullest – a fine example of a beautiful life.

    Until we meet again Mr. Sperry.

    Peace to you all.


  19. It’s taken me a while to react and post something here, because it’s taken me a while to deal with Matt being gone.
    I met Matt the first time I was living in Seattle, which was in 1993, and then got to know him better when I moved back to Seattle perminantly in 1995. Besides the fact that he was an incredible bass player, and played in a gamelan, what really impressed me about Matt is what a wonderful person he was as a human being. He was a pleasure to be around and spend time with, whether at some musicial event or just hanging out. He was a very inspiring person because of his good disposition and general enthusiasm. He gave an example of how life could be great if you just had the right attitude. Matt’s personality and excitement made him friends with a great number of wonderful people around Seattle, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to him for introducing me to many of them. But most of all I cherish his friendship, and have many happy memories of times with him. I remember early on, Matthew invited me and my 5-year-old (or so) son to go with him and some other friends to an outdoor art event / picnic somewhere over by Redmond. At the time, I still didn’t know so many people in Seattle, and most of those that I did, didn’t know how to deal with a small child. Being a single parent, it was great to find someone who could interact with us both. Thinking of this, it makes me sad to think how Lila was blessed with such a wonderful father, only to have him taken away so early. Losing Matthew is very sad for all of us, but it is even more sad that little Lila will never get know that wonderful man better.

  20. Stacia,
    I was only lucky enough to meet Matthew about four times. You and Lila were with him every time except once he was collecting donations after a Hedwig show. It took me a minute to figure out who he was… I had no idea it had been Matthew tearing the roof off “the Vickey” with a little help from his far more than fabulous friends.
    Every other time I met Matt he was with you and Lila. I was there for Los Platanos Machos Quattros and I also play-dohed with Lila on that lovely day. Its clear when I remember those all too short encounters that for all the joy Matthew is experiencing he is equally saddened for what he had to leave behind. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  21. Going through my mailbox the other day I found a long, old message from Matthew in January. I wanted to share the message’s last paragraph:

    “I’ve never been happier than I am right now- contributing my talent and effort to other people’s creative work- but I still have a longing to do my own thing. I get closest to that with improvised music, but there’s more to be done. Well, when I see you again let’s make a toast to long, diverse life.”

    I’m so sorry we never made that toast.


  22. i met matt in high school, we we nt to differnt schools but are within a year or two in age a nd came across eachother now and then as players in south forida. Later we met up again at FSU and formed the trio “Melon Fumble” our drummer whose name i thoughlessly forget was six foot ten inches tall and slammed. Matt was listening to the H.G. the minute men and The Dead. He had the stienberger that he ripped the fretts out of and filled and flyin frettless baby Jaco Jaco Jaco he was fun, soft, confident ,focused and always ready to play.. I just got the news after a full night of great music playing with great people creating . at three A.M. Coogan calls he just read the obit. in Bass player mag. I am looking for the long lost unmistakable recordings of this band Melon Fumble, that also featured some horn work by matts friend kevin montgomery. we are talking 1986 i will send copies to the family. i have not seen matt in fourteen years but he left his mark. I missed him before he left us. Love Sean

  23. My name is Berta Coogan and my husband’s cousin, Sean, left the post right before this one. My husband, also named Matthew, found out about this great tragedy at about 4AM this morning while casually thumbing through his Bass Player mag….he came across Matthew’s obituary and his reaction was one of tremendous and painful disappointment. He needed to call Sean at that time to share the news as well as look for support as they had all spent some time, many years back, playing together. He spent the next few hours after that explaining to me the extent of enlightenment, musical and otherwise, that he had acquired through his time in life spent with Matthew Sperry. Although I never had the honor of meeting him myself, I know that he was one incredibly talented, “real” and special person who touched so many….probably so many more than he ever could have imagined. May his soul rest in peace as my heart goes out to his family.

  24. Dear Sweet Lila,
    By the time you are old enough to read this yourself, several years have passed and hopefully you and your mom have found some peace and healing after the horrible thing that has happened. I met you and your daddy about a year ago in New York City. We all went to a little diner and I watched you and your parents and I thought, “Lila and her mom sure are lucky!” Your dad will always be your dad and nothing can ever take that away from you. Boy, did he love you! Everyone who loves you and your dad and mom (and I see there are lots and lots of people who love you all) will help you remember him, and they will tell you all about him. I hope to see you soon and give you a big hug and tickle. Please give your mom a big kiss from me.

  25. Matt and I worked together for a good while at Local Flavor. I remember he was driving this beat up blue car with a bumper sticker that said “Car Bomb”. One day we were chatting about the future and he said something really nice, he said, “I think Peter can do anything he wants to do.” I’ve carried that comment with me since that day. Thanks for the positives Matt, my thoughts are with you!

  26. Matthew, Can You Sperry Me Again? (2003)
    by Stuart Dempster

    Dedicated to the memory of jazz bassist extraordinaire Matthew Sperry

    The title above goes to a score (immediately below) wherein I have welcomed Matthew Sperry, in his untimely passing, into my body and mind. The score is simply to

    Allow Matthew Sperry, and his memory, to process soundly through the performer.

    13 July 03

    During the time of Matthewís death on the morning of 5 June 2003 I had decided rather urgently to listen to the new Brainstun 2 CD that was about to be released; I had not heard anything by Matt for well over a year. Christian Asplund had sent a preliminary copy of the CD a couple of months earlier for the purpose of writing a blurb.* During that fateful morning I was playing some form of ìneedle dropî whereby I was concentrating on finding the ìConstructionî and other tracks that featured Christian and Matthew. I was not listening to the CD all the way through but rather seeking out the Matthew Sperry playing. Even now, some five weeks later, I cannot fathom why Matthew chose to visit me in that way, essentially saying ìgoodbyeî to me. I did not read the email about his death until early the next day.

    It soon became apparent that Matt had more in store for me. I now think that Matt was not saying ìgoodbyeî but, rather, ìhello.î My trombone practice during 6 to 14 June seemed to offer significant meditations on, or with, Matt. I was particularly aware of this on the earlier days immediately after his death, but during that entire week I was influenced by his presence. During my 15 June performance at Seattleís CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art). I performed a small dedication piece for Matthew with my garden hose resonating in the resident (Gust Burnsí) piano.

    Matt, however, was not in the least bit finished with me. Therefore, I announced a continuation of the dedication mode, and launched into a set wherein Matt was either standing at my side or residing in my head. It was as though Matt was processing right through me. I consider this solo set to be among my strongest performances ever; even certain members of the audience knew there was something special going on. As I said to some people afterwards, ìIt seems like anything good during my set came directly from the influence of Matt Sperry.î

    In writing the blurb for Brainstun 2, I could not proceed without writing about the unwitting nature of this CD as an ìhomageî to Matt.

    Because Mattís presence in me is so prominent and surprising, he is perhaps:

    1. Teaching me to be attentive.
    2. Urging me not to be complacent, and to honor whatever gifts I have, especially in improvisation.
    3. Perhaps being for me a kind of nagging conscience or, more accurately, a guru.

    If Matt is so willing to give me this time, I welcome him wholeheartedly. It is especially surprising because I did not feel that I knew Matt particularly well, although I have known him a long timeó15 years. If I am having this amount of ìdealingsî with Matt, I cannot begin to imagine how present he must be in those who really new him well. I feel deeply that somehow I must honor his gifts, perhaps to continue some of the work that he might have done had he lived. It is at once an honor to be offered this kind of an opportunity while at the same time there is some trepidation that I cannot live up to that expectation. But I am ready for the challengeóindeed, I am in the midst of itóand I thank him deeply and reverently.

    Tonight I performed a concert at AngelArmsWorks, Warner Blakeís and Karen Guzakís new studio space remodeled from an old church in the town of Snohomish about 45 minutes northeast of Seattle. It is an absolutely stunning remake of this remarkable old building, and it is a pure delight to be in it. The only thing more out of hand about it is the garden area on the southeast corner of the old church. It is a montage of many plantsósome of them edibleóoutdoor furniture, and art pieces. As the audience arrived, Renko and I plunked down in the midst of the shrubbery and began to play our wooden frogs and our birdcalls. I also played the conch with a wooden stick that sounded like a large frog or cricket. Eventually we moved about the outside space, ìperformingî on as many of the garden items (chairs, pipes, art objects, and so on) that we could. It sounded quite nice and gentle, and everybody seemed to love it.

    Finally moving inside, I began by continuing with the birdcalls and other ìobjectsîóeven an undercurrent of these sounds during Warnerís introduction. Then I performed ìMatthew, Can you Sperry Me Again?î that, while not as dramatic as it was at CoCA, still had some significant impact. I could feel Mattís presence, and I made reference to the Arms of the Angels when I introduced the piece. Then I did several set pieces, including ìRouletteî, ìDidjeridervishî (with a short ìdidjeridemoî), ìJDBBBDJî, and ìAcuhoseryî. Many of these involved the audience singing or humming, and the second round of ìJDBBBDJî was a specific healing energy effort directed at ìLeeî (one of the audience members). It seemed to help her significantly. At the end I played ìMy Funny Valentineî as a dedication to my own valentine, Renko. Through it all Matt remained present; certainly he would have appreciated the programming, healing, and sentiment. Matt also would have appreciated the ìat-once-nessî of the healing, humor, and seriousnessóand the happy faces of the audience as they got up for the pot-luck dinner.


    *Blurb for Brainstun 2 CD on Present Music by Christian Asplund (June 03)

    “Brainstun 2” unwittingly serves as an homage to the late and highly esteemed Matthew Sperry whose untimely death occurred just a few days before this CD release. Sperry and Christian Asplund are featured in three particularly poignant and spiritual “Constructions.” Asplund, in his well-crafted compositions, delightfully teases us on those slippery slopes between composition and improvisation; in the liner notes, Michael Hicks provides “a perspective” on Asplund’s music that is as insightful as it is loving. In “Brainstun 2” Sperry and Greg Campbell admirably supply an energetic rhythm that propels one from track to track while, at the same time, elegant melodic explorations are delivered with aplomb by Jessica Lurie and, indeed, all the Brainstun musicians.

    Stuart Dempster, Professor Emeritus
    University of Washington School of Music

  27. I didn’t know Matthew, but I watched him perform 6 times during the run of Hedwig. My partner died 2 years ago and Hedwig–the movie and the play–was the first thing that truly moved me and made me think (and smile) during the grief period.

    It was for that reason that I felt so sad when reading about Matthew’s death. I really wanted to do something so I was honored to be at the memorial concert last night.

    It was obvious to me–an outsider–watching the many talented and loving people both on stage and in the audience that Matthew was a wonderful person who touched many lives. I also got to play with a beautiful little girl who I’m pretty sure is his daughter.

    It is a night that I won’t forget and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

  28. I have never been more delighted to be turned away at the doors of a sold out show! Matthew’s spirit seems to be growing. I love you Stacia and Lila!

  29. The Sadness of Things

    I think this has been the saddest summer of my life. The weight of it all caught up with me today. First there was Matthew’s death in June, which shook all of us to the core and has consumed a tremendous amount of emotional energy since. Then something…

  30. Didn’t know Matthew, but do know loss.

    You will be forced through all type of feelings.
    The whole spectrum. Time is your handle.


  31. Matthew,
    I will never forget your smiling face and the
    two giant bear hugs you gave me the last time I saw you.
    I’ll remeber you always,
    love Aunt Sheila

  32. I was a student at Cornish in full career of a love affair with gamelan music that persists to this day. I was enchanted by this music, under its spell. Practicing and performing it was a vast source of contentment for me. Matthew joined us for some performances, he played the kacapi, the stringed zither that floats above the ringing tones of the gamelan. I was always really excited when Matthew joined us for performances, his contribution added so much depth and dimension to the music and I wanted to know Matthew better, he was like a rare visitor who always brings gifts. But it seemed like he was a busy person with a well established network of friends, not really a person who had a lot of time (or who desired) to just hang out and meet new people. Besides I was just a rookie saron player with no music background and not alot of smalltalk outside of how incredible I thought his playing was. All said, I only had a couple of conversations with Matthew and he was actually one of the kindest people that I met in Seattle. My experiences performing gamelan in Seattle with student ensembles and Gamelan Pacifica remain some of my fondest memories and I hold those people who participated with me close to my heart. Matthew Sperry was a special person even amongst the artists and musicians that I was privelaged to know in that place and time. I’m glad to share this with you.

  33. I have never had anybody die before and someone who is this close to me(except for great grandma and great grandpa, but I was only a baby.)This means alot to me and I wish it had never happened.I am only 8 years old, but I have been very close to my Uncle Matthew and this is still a shock to me.I am very sad that I will never speak to him anymore.
    I want to tell everybody who reads this how I found out.I was in my classroom when my stepdad came in and asked my teacher if I could come home early and my teacher said yes. Outside my classroom he told me what had happened. I was sad and cried all the way home.When I got home my mom and dad were there, and everybody was crying.I went with my dad and he cheered me up a little.That is the story of how I found out about the accident.I know in my mind there must be a reason this horrible thing happened. I love and miss my Uncle Matthew.

  34. I love and miss you Matthew very much.

    “Thereís a gap in between
    Thereís a gap where we meet
    Where I end & you begin
    And Iím sorry for us
    The dinosaurs roam the earth
    The sky turns green
    Where I end & you begin
    I am up in the clouds
    I am up in the clouds
    And I canít
    & I canít come down
    I can watch but
    Not take part
    Where I end & where you start
    Where you left me alone
    You left me alone.
    X will mark the place
    Like parting the waves
    Like a house falling into the
    These words were written by Thom Yorke for a RADIOHEAD song called “Where I End & You Begin.”(the sky is falling in.)

    these words spoke to me today and I just really,really miss you.

  35. This has been a long hard summer for all those that were blessed with having any sort of relationship with Matthew. He was my little brother and my love for him will always go right to my very core. I have put off posting to this website that Scott so graciously set up for all of us to express ourselves as it relates to this tragedy, but it is now time for me to put some thoughts, feelings and stories to words. First of all on behalf of Matthewís surviving family I want to extend our appreciation for the love and support that so many of you have provided in different ways, especially for supporting Lila and Stasia, Harriet and Estee. Some of you I met years ago, some of you I just met this summer, and others I have only read your posting or heard stories about. While a part of me died on June 5, the memories and thoughts that have been shared about Matthew really do help me continue in my life after this tragedy. I believe others in my family share this sentiment.

    On the first weekend of August, soon after the incredibly special Tribute Concert, a small portion of Matthewís remains were placed in a bronze urn at the Columbarium at the Chapel of Chimes, by a small group of very close relatives and family. The rest of the ashes we brought to Ocean Beach near Judah Street. After some words to usher Matthewís physical remains back to the elements from which he sprang and to tell him to expect us later, we each took a small portion of ashes and tossed them to the sea along with some red roses. I swam out with the bulk of remains and basically took a bath in Matthewís ash and bone. I wish Matthew could continue to live (if he wishes) through me or through any of us. Please remember him when you watch the sun setting or the waves crashing. You all know how much he loved music, but he also spent the summers of his youth on the beaches of Southern California, he loved bodysurfing and snorkelling, and was quite comfortable in the ocean (as Stacia has already pointed out). I could imagine him inhabiting the body of a marine mammal reeling out sub-sonar acoustics from his melon.

    I love you brotherówherever the fuck you are!!

    Listen to a melon:

    XXOO Sam

  36. Out of the blue I put Matthew’s name into a Google search wondering what he’s been up to over the years. I am shocked and saddened beyond belief by his death.

    Matthew and I were two of the three bass players in our high school, North Miami Beach Sr. High (in Florida) way back in the day. He was a year ahead of me, and everyone who played in bands knew that he was destined for greatness as a bass player. I hung it up for other pursuits after high school, but wasn’t surprised when I heard Matthew dove headfirst into the music world. My bass playing, while a valiant effort at times, never held a candle to his.

    He was one of the warmest people I remember from high school, and an incredibly talented musician even back then. His warm heart and talent will be sorely missed.

    Rich Glickstein

  37. I was looking up Hedwig dates & saw a familiar face. I knew Mathew from North Miami Beach senior high in 1987. I was in his jazz band class. I always new he was such an amazing talent! Sorry to see you go matt!
    Iím also sorry we never kept in touch.

  38. Happy Birthday Matthew.
    You are always in our hearts and thoughts and feelings.
    We love you and miss you so very much.
    You family will always celebrate this day, just as we always have….as it is, a truely extra special day.
    cheers to our sweet Matthew
    x0x0 into infinity……….

  39. Happy Birthday Matthew,

    We think of you always but especially on this day of November 6.

    Love Aunt Sheila and Cousin Niki

  40. Hello Stacia & Lila,
    My heartfelt condolences. These days repercussions of Matt’s death keep washing out like waves I’d guess, reaching farther shores. I just heard about Matt at Thanksgiving, from Elizabeth Carpenter. I didn’t know Matt well–mostly from parties at Steve and Danielle’s, iv bricoleur movie nights at the Speakeasy, and through Joe Zajonc & Black Cat–but those brief encounters always left me thinking man, I’d like to know that guy better–he’s got a spirit about him. Reading through these messages I can see he affected many other people that way as well. Take good care.

  41. mijo
    lila has been singing all the time lately. she has your musical sense. the other day she sang what she calls a “sad died” song.

    he doesn’t kiss mama anymore
    cause hes dead
    and he died
    he doesnt kiss anybody anymore

    i sit in stunned silence. too frozen even to cry.
    later i’m weeping as i put on her jammies and she throws her arms around my neck-patting my hair-saying “aww”. i try to tell her mamas okay-just sad -still here for her. but inside i’m crumbling
    the anxiety of the truth that you are really never coming back grips me in its fist and i am twisted in convulsing screams-tearing at my flesh. i want out. i throw myself at the cold hard slab of the reality of your death. fight it with my whole being. but it is futile- i only exhaust myself.
    i miss you like i miss air when iam so panicked that i can not breathe. every cell in my body cries out for you and is unanswered.
    today is six months since you died and i feel like it has been six days.
    i need you-i need my healing mijo. doesnt the universe get this? how can my love not be great enough to bring you back? how can you not be with me-especially now that i am in this much pain.
    my ears are still clogged from a flu i had over two weeks ago. perhaps yhey’ll clear only when i’m ready to hear. hear the truth that you aren’t coming back. you dont get to live. lila doesnt get her dada. i dont get my beloved.

  42. I went to high school with Matt and hung out a bit with him when I went to FSU as well.

    He is the guy that inspired me to start playing bass. I would constantly bug him to give me advice on what to do to get better.

    I can’t say the we were ever good friends, but I always thought he was one of the coolest guys I knew.

    A couple years ago, I looked him up on the Internet, out of the blue. I was happy to find that he remembered me and was just as glad to hear from me as I was of him. We emailed each other back and forth for awhile and he told me about the Letterman show that was coming up.

    I remember telling people that ‘the guy who practically taught me how to play bass is going to be on Letterman playing with Tom Waits!!’

    This morning, I looked up another old friend of mine that I had lost touch with. He went to the same high school and was also friends with Matt. He told me about this site.

    I shut the door of my office and cried.

    What more can I say. I wish I had known you better, Matt.

  43. “Last year.” Suddenly, it’s measured in years, not days or months. “I lost a friend last year.” “My friend died last year…” This while explaining to an acquaintance why I still cry whenever I listen to “The Origin of Love.”

    On New Years Eve, I sat with a roomful of friends and family. In a beautiful silver cup from Scotland which my parents brought me, we passed around some really damned good scotch (Balvenie, for those in the know) and, as has become our tradition, spoke of the moment in the past year which was the most pivotal, and for which we are most thankful. My partner Brian spoke of watching me, being with me during and through the minutes, days, and hours following Matthew’s death. rom him being awakened by my incoherent shrieks when I got the news, to pouring me onto a plane days later and pouring me a half-dozen martinis whehn I got home, Brian has been there with and for me. He “gets” death in a way no young person should – he’s be HIV positive for over a decade and has seen way too many friends die way too young.

    So what was his pivotal monent of 2003 – what he’s most thankful for? My grief – because it opened me so wide and raw to the awful truth and beautiful truth of what it is to be mortal, alive, and in love. Because he was able to hold me when I was at the absolute nadir of emotional vulnerability, when I had nothing left with which to protect myself. Because in my grief, we got to share a rock-solid truth, a truth which underlies every joy and love of our lives – it’s fleeting, and what we have is what we get, for as long as we get it. And we treasure it. We must.

    My pivotal moment? Seeing Matthew in “Hedwig.” I am unfathomably grateful that we drove nearly a thousand miles to see that! That is precious to me. And my other pivotal event is the gift that Matthew gave me and my friends through his passing. Amid the torment and grief, friends I haven’t spoken with in years are again within my circle; friendships that were strong and enduring are now annealed and as strong as Adament through the fires of our shared loss.

    It’s often said and sung that “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” But sometimes you get to know it before it’s gone, and then get to know what you still have after it’s gone. And to those I still have, and you know who you are, I love you all the more in this brave new year for what we have lived throiugh in 2003. Let’s treasure that.

    Love, Scott

  44. Matthew,
    i miss you.
    i love you.

    **(these are the words to a song i love by Kula Shaker…
    Into the deep, the long forgotton sleep
    You can feel your eyes are shut closely now.
    Where do you know.
    There’s no-one that can know As you lie you can try to be happy now.
    Fly brother fly, may you feel love tonite.
    Fly brother fly, well i hope you meet your maker.
    Enter you heart, and never let it part
    Yesterday was a lie so be happy now.
    When all you can feel is what you take as real
    Come alive, realise its a feeling.
    Fly brother fly, may you feel your love tonite. Fly brother fly, well i hope you meet your maker.
    I know, the time has come to let you go
    Time to sleep, to sleep.)**

    Matt,I think of you as music, the music in my life. It’s so hard to hear you sometimes. I will never let you go me. I will always have you inside my heart.
    I will.

  45. Dear Matt,

    I am so grateful for the 6 months I got to spend in your lovely presence. Thank you for bringing your beautiful family into my life; for inviting me to dinner in your home, and sharing stories about how you and Stacia met and fell in love. Thank you for being the kind of man that proudly wears a “World Record Breastfeeding” T-shirt. Thank you for a perfect sunny day (6/1/03) in Cole Valley with Stacia, Lila, Nick, and Mitzi. Thank you for your honesty, encouragement and support. I feel so lucky to have known you, if only for a brief period of time. Thank you for being my friend.



  46. oh my mijo. today is our 4th anniversary. my love for you is as strong as ever. i crave your skin, your eyes, your voice. i’m going to bring you cala lilies. remember i held them at our wedding. people still talk about how great that day was. i remember holding your hands looking into your eyes and just knowing. we knew.
    i cant believe youve been away for almost a year. i never even liked it when you would be gone for a day!
    my mishi my loved one my most favorite sweetness man. my mi mi mi mijo mimishikins i miss you. love from your sweetheart babe toots.

  47. To Stacia, Lila, Harriet, Estee and Sam,
    I am thinking of all of you today. I send you love and strength.
    Love Beth

  48. On June 4, I went with several friends of Matthew’s to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the ReBar in Seattle (Live). It was wonderful and amazing, and so perfect that after two years, Hedwig should return to town just at the first anniversary of Matthew’s death. My friend Amy was there – she and I drove down to San Fran to see Hedwig in February ’03 – the last time I saw Matthew. My friends Sung and Melissa were there – we sat together at Matthew’s funeral – the last time I heard songs from Hedwig performed live. It was the most powerful performance of Hedwig that I’ve seen yet – we cheered and cried and lifted up our hands, and jumped up and down at the end. It was, for me, the most fitting memorial – beautiful, redolent, and outrageous.

    Afterwords I spoke with Nick Garrison – Seattle’s Hedwig. He performed a couple times with Matthew in San Fran, filling in on occasion with the SF cast. As I was so touched to have such a great night remembering and truly celebrating Matthew, Nick was incredibly touched to know that he was able to bring such a memorial home to several of Matthew’s friends.

    Breathe. Feel. Love. Give. Free.

  49. Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos and I sit trying to figure out how to remember the people that are gone-just gone. I don’t know how to burn them into my brain. i know that’s what needs to be done, sear them into some part of my flesh to carry them on, bring them with me. I ‘ve lost someone every year since I became a mother, so much so that now I see a pantheon: whenever I think of one, the rest piggyback in like a greek chorus, squeezing all together in one small brittle heart. I can only hope that Matthew is finding a kindred spirit with my Gramps, that my Grandma Millie is not driving him nuts, that he welcomes my friend Leah’s mother, who died a painful and sudden death last week, and helps her through whatever horror that is. I see Tim Krafft fully recovered from his overdose talking to Matthew about noises and how to make them. Becky Heimberg might dance as Matthew plays. This is my comforting delusion. Maybe it’s all a crutch and they really are just feeding trees but i hear them talking to each other, making new family as they need to, finding comfort and watching us, sharing friendly gossip about the ones they left behind. And that’s not far from a wisp of wind, not too different from providing the very nutrients for the earth to renew and grow. In fact, it could be exactly the same thing.

  50. Happy Birthday Matthew. We love you and miss you everyday,more than we ever could possibly have imagined. Today, as on all your birthdays, past & future, we will celebrate you, a devoted, loving brother, a fun and passionate uncle, a total music genius and so much more. *(J.L. says it so much better “Limitless undying love which shines around you like a million suns, it calls you on and on across the universe…” xoxoxoxoxoxox times a zillion from us to you.

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