Q & A with Braves Organist Matthew Kaminski
Kaminski is responsible for playing the batter entrance themes for the visiting team, as well as entertaining fans in between innings (the Braves come to bat to their own pre-selected music). Kaminski has earned a reputation for playing timely and relevant songs, based on a player's name or circumstance.
We had a chance to talk with Matthew about what he does, and what his plans are for when the Phillies come to town this week. You can request songs from Matthew on Twitter @bravesorganist.
And yes, he will be playing the Mister Softee theme for Chooch.
Read the interview after the jump.
How long have you been doing this?
This is my second
Is the organ a bit of a lost art at baseball games?
It's getting that way. I
think that more teams are opting for 'pre-recorded' or CD music these days. I'm
happy that the Braves have kept it alive!
You’re famous for your player specific music. How much do
you have to know about the games/players to play timely and appropriate music?
Actually, not much these
days. I have a twitter account ( @bravesorganist ) and I get so many
suggestions that all I have to do is pick my favorite, or the best one for the
situation. I do have to make sure there's a specific reason for what I play,
unless I don't know, for example, who a pinch hitter is going to be. Then
I might play something like 'Who Are You'.
Is there a favorite song you like to play?
My wife was born in
California (from a military family) and I love the Beach Boys, so I love
playing 'California Girls' for her. Recently, I just learned the 'Family Guy'
theme, which seems to be a favorite of the crowd.
Any player ever given you a hard time about songs you’ve selected
Now, the Phillies. Is there a player you look forward to
picking on with one of your song selections?
Most recently, I've been
playing 'Jesus is Just Allright' for Jason Werth. I hope he doesn't shave his
beard again! (interview was conducted
pre beard death. R.I.P. Beard)
You played “The Office” for Ryan Howard. Do you have to
constantly have to learn new songs? And do people ever ask you about
obscure references like that?
Yes, I have to learn at
least 10 new songs each series. It's actually been good for my 'ear training',
meaning, being able to pick up a song really quickly by listening to it a
couple of times. And yes, I get questions all the time and I try to get them to
figure it out themselves, but I'll give them the reason for the reference if
they really can't figure it out.
How did you go about getting a job with the Braves?
One of my adult organ
students knew the person that was hiring and hooked me up. Shortly afterward, I
had an interview with Scott Cunningham, the director of game entertainment for
the Braves. He had me 'audition' in the 2 spring training games last
year at Turner Field. I guess I did pretty well for those games, because I
got the job!
When you’re not playing baseball games, where else do you
play? Tell us a little about your personal career.
I'm primarily a jazz
organist (I'm an endorsee for the Hammond Organ Company) and have just
released a new album on Chicken Coup / Summit Records entitled 'Taking My
Time'. You can purchase it on my website at: http://www.matthewkaminski.com .
My jazz organ group plays around the Atlanta area with different vocalists.
Also, I play the piano for a Salsa band called 'Orquesta MaCuba' whenever I
can. We play at an Atlantan restaurant called 'Loca Luna' on most Saturdays. In
October, I play the accordion occasionally with a Polka band called 'Laurentz
Und Die Katzen' (Lawrence and the Cats). Moreover, I freelance as an organist,
pianist, accordionist with different vocalists and instrumentalists. You can
view clips of some of these groups at my YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/organizedtime
Strangest thing seen from the press box?
Hmmm, some foul balls
have come in, but I have yet to catch one!
Ever made a mistake that you hoped no one would notice?
I make them all the
time, probably every game. I just pretend like it didn't happen and am pretty
good at 'covering up' my mistakes.
Do you have any players/teams that you look forward to getting
Hmmmm, I don't know
about specific players, but I would love to play Monty Python's 'The Lumberjack
Song' for someone named Jack! Also, for someone named Tony, I'd love to play 'Tiny
Dancer' – 'Hold me closer Tony Danza'! Or someone named Bruce could get
'Don't Bring Me Down' by ELO. There's a part in that song that sounds like,
'Don't Bring Me Down. . .. . Bruuuuuuuce. . !"
You use Twitter a lot to engage fans for feedback.
Have you ever received any off the wall requests?
Always! One unusual one
was for an internet cartoon theme song called 'Trogdor'. Also, the
reporters in the press box with me always have requests. In particular, the
Phillies reporters absolutely love Yacht Rock songs by Michael
McDonald, The Doobie Brothers, and similar artists.
Will you play the Mister Softee theme for Carlos Ruiz? Long story on this one.
I did play it and will
play it again when the Phillies come back. I don't think we have Mister Softee
here, so I wasn't familiar with the song. Does he like ice cream that much?!!!
Anything funny planned for the upcoming Phillies series?
I was thinking about a
couple of songs for Ryan Madson like 'Head to Toe' by Lisa Lisa
and Cult Jam or 'Tip-toe Through the Tulips'.
What do you do on off days/weeks when the Braves aren't
I'm a husband and about
to be a father (our daughter is due any day now). I teach about 30 piano/organ
students, gig with various groups, am pursuing a Masters Degree in Music at
Georgia State University (part time), and try to keep up with things to do
around the house!
I see that you are also an accordionist – just like former Braves
pitcher/current Braves announcer John Smoltz. Have you ever
considered asking him to do an accordion duet at a game?
I actually haven't met
John yet, but I heard he was really good at the accordion as a child. I would
love to talk to him about it. I'm more self taught on the accordion than the
piano and organ, and perhaps he could show me a thing or two!
Are there any other fan bases who are very vocal/interactive with
you besides the Atlanta ones? Who gives the most requests?
The Phillies fans are
definitely the most vocal! Also, the Cubs fans have been vocal this year as
well. I grew up in Chicago, so we had a lot to go back and forth about. I
would also say that the teams in our division (the Marlins, Nats, Mets) are
also vocal because they hear me a lot more.
A lot of stadiums use canned organ music (or no actual organ music
at all) and the Ted used to be one of them. What made them decide to go
to live organ playing again? What would be your best argument to persuade
other teams into doing the same thing (back to live organ music)?
Scott Cunningham, our
director of game entertainment brought the organ back to be more interactive
with the crowd. That would be the best argument, because I can play anything
that comes to mind for a specific situation, whereas a CD of canned organ music
will have the same 20 songs being played at every game. Moreover, my
interaction with the fans through Twitter and by meeting some of them in person
gives the fans an added 'excitement' to their experience at the game. When a
fan makes a request and I play it for them a couple of minutes later, they get
a really big kick out of that!