Local radio host Matthew Altruda and his passion for local tunes
by Paul Kitti
From the brick walkway of Nickels Arcade to the 107.1 broadcast tower, rising local bands and aspiring street musicians are hard at work making sure that Ann Arbor’s soundtrack is never silent. As a result, one can hardly pass through Ann Arbor without getting an earful of some of the best music the area has to offer. It’s a reality that all who call this city their home have either grown to love or at least embrace. Music is largely what defines this city, and passionate people like Matthew Altruda are making sure the definition sticks.
As a dedicated band manager, promoter, booking agent and radio host, you could say Altruda is one of the engineers behind the city’s soundtrack. But it wasn’t until he found himself laid off from his job at Borders that he made the choice to act on his passion for music.
“I just decided that I wanted to follow my dreams more and work in the music industry,” Altruda recalls. “I started managing the Macpodz by luck—almost just by stumbling upon them, and I kept on growing, following my love for music and trying to make a career out of it.”
Since then, Altruda has booked stages for the Sonic Lunch music series as well as the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park, raised awareness within the community about local bands and events and has begun hosting Tree Town Sound, a radio program on 107.1 that showcases music from Washtenaw County artists.
“I really want Tree Town Sound to be a destination. I want people to be sitting on their porch drinking Oberon and listening to Tree Town Sound. I want people making dinner with their family listening to Tree Town Sound,” says Altruda. “Music brings the community together like nothing I’ve ever seen because it makes the people feel like they’re a part of something. The goal of Tree Town Sound is to showcase amazing Michigan music, have people listen to it and say, ‘This is really good. I want to go out and support this. I want to become a part of this.’”
Airing every Sunday at 6 p.m., Tree Town Sound features a dose of the best new local music, in-studio conversations with rising artists and a few words from one of the most knowledgeable sources in the local music scene: Altruda himself. The show is broadcasted live and has featured artists such as Chris Bathgate, Nervous But Excited and Gun Lake.
“I’m hoping that the people coming on my show are seeing a good return by people listening and coming out and supporting them,” says Altruda. “In this town, people are making music that they want to make. They’re not just making music that people want to hear. It’s their art, and they’re doing it the way they want to do it.”
It’s good to know that people like Altruda, who have such a strong influence on what we hear, have a heart for music and an ear for what best reflects the spirit of this community. “I love all music,” Altruda explains. “Tree Town Sound is the sound of the community and the music that it makes. I feel some responsibility to play it all, and 107.1 is incredible with giving me complete freedom to put out whatever I want.”
Altruda’s passion for music is matched only by his desire to positively influence the younger generation. He spends time at The Neutral Zone, a teen center in downtown Ann Arbor that holds a recording studio where kids can make their own music. Young
musicians with talent and ambition have even been heard on Tree Town Sound.
“It’s a way for me to reward the kids that are working hard and trying to make music, by bringing them on my show,” Altruda says. “I think getting kids in front of live music is important because it plants the seed. A lot of the responsibility for parents is to get their kids out to see live art, to see music and culture them so when they’re older they can appreciate it.”
Whether you’re tuning in to his broadcast or conversing with him on the streets of Ann Arbor about his favorite bands, Altruda’s love for the city and enthusiasm about its music comes across in a lively and sincere way. He sees Ann Arbor as a music town and is excited when he sees that music spreading to other places.
“The list goes on and on of bands that are from Ann Arbor playing all over the country and all over the world,” says Altruda. “Ann Arbor is the new Seattle. There are so many Michigan bands on each national festival bill, and it’s not luck, it’s all talent. There’s so much talent here, it’s almost overwhelming.”
Since it’s summer in Ann Arbor, there is even more great music around every corner, and all that talent is already busy composing the city’s summer soundtrack. The Roots Jamboree in Ypsilanti, performances from Chris Bathgate and Abigail Stauffer at The Ark and the Sonic Lunch lineup are just a few events that Altruda is looking forward to.
“If you love music, then you need to support it because times are tough right now for artists, and the only way live music is going to work is if people embrace it and support it and become a part of it. That’s my mission: to deliver it and make it more accessible.”
Tree Town Sound runs Sundays from 6 – 7 p.m. on Ann Arbor’s 107.1 FM. More information can be found at www.treetownsound.com.