UW-Eau Claire alumni success stories

Matt Franko enjoys busy career, shares advice
with current UW-Eau Claire music students

Matt Franko '99
Matt Franko '99
(Photo by Laura Grier)

Sept. 20, 2006

By Nancy Wesenberg '91
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau

Matt Franko, a member of UW-Eau Claire's Jazz Ensemble I from 1994 until his graduation in 1999, has been very busy the past several years pursuing a career as a composer, arranger, copyist, and performer in the Los Angeles area. And although he's been enjoying considerable success in the music industry, he hasn't forgotten his roots.

"The music program at UW-Eau Claire is such a great environment," Franko said in a recent e-mail to UW-Eau Claire jazz program director Bob Baca. He urged Baca to tell current UW-Eau Claire music students not to take it for granted.

"It's not the same everywhere else," Franko said.

Over the past year or two, Franko has been a part of many large projects. He orchestrated, arranged and copied music for the 2005 World Stunt Awards, recorded live at Paramount Pictures. And for a live show in Vancouver, Canada, where he worked with world-renowned producer David Foster, he did music transcriptions or "takedowns" for three weeks before becoming the on-site copyist and music librarian, working with Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, Renee Olstead and others. That work then opened the door to him for a bigger show in Las Vegas.

The Vegas show, a charity event hosted by André Agassi, allowed Franko to work with artists Glenn Frey, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and others, again as on-site music copyist and librarian. There he had the opportunity to meet other stars, including Robin Williams, George Lopez, Emeril Lagasse and members of Earth Wind & Fire.

As a copyist, Franko can also claim work on albums by Kim Burrell and Mary Mary, Julio Iglesias, Kenny G's Christmas album and Josh Groban's upcoming album.

In 2004, Franko worked as an orchestrator and copyist for the Broadway musical "The Ten Commandments," starring Val Kilmer as Moses. The show required him to work closely with Patrick Leonard, composer and producer of more than 175 albums, including Madonna's "Like a Prayer."

Franko keeps busy performing and recording as well. He played a trombone solo on the CBS television series "Close to Home," and he continues to play live gigs for weddings, corporate parties and charity events. Franko said through these performances he has shared the stage with celebrities Harrison Ford, Larry King and others. He also has performed with Wayne Newton and a few of the former American Idol contestants.

In the recording studio, Franko recently finished a few tracks for a smooth jazz album and is anticipating its release. Other albums he's been involved in include Eric Burdon's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and Daniel Austin's "Confidence In You"- a jazz/pop album featuring Franko as both artist and arranger.

Franko also has done some copying for films. He recently joined JoAnn Kane Music Service, one of the biggest music preparation companies for film and television in Los Angeles. The company had just finished doing the music preparation for "King Kong" when they asked Franko to be part of their team for 2006.

"It has already been a great learning experience," said Franko.

So far he's had the chance to work on music preparation for films such as "X-Men - The Final Stand," "Superman Returns," "The Omen," "Lady in the Water," "You, Me & Dupree," "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," "Zoom" and others. His television work has included "The Simpsons," "Family Guy" and "American Dad," and this fall he'll also be working on "King of the Hill" and "Futurama."

Like many other jazz program alumni, Franko tries to touch base with Baca regularly and send encouragement and advice to current students looking forward to a career in the music industry.

"Take advantage of every opportunity you have in college to learn as much as possible about the music business," Franko recently wrote. "Write a lot, practice a lot, listen a lot, and read a lot. Learning how to network, or what to include in a demo package, how to present yourself in the right place at the right time is so important."

Franko also acknowledged the importance of UW-Eau Claire's College of Business in his education.

"Whether you are interested in business or not, a music career IS a business, and you have to treat it that way in order to be successful," said Franko. "I would encourage every student to take at least one business class and/or some software classes."

Franko used the business knowledge he acquired at UW-Eau Claire to start a music publishing business with his business partner and mentor Jeff Rinear, who still lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where the company, Increase Music, is based.

"The company was in the planning stages when I was in college," said Franko. "It was officially incorporated in October 1999 and it has grown quite a bit over the past seven years."

Increase Music specializes in publishing sheet music for jazz ensembles of all ability levels, books and other educational resources that Franko said have been used in concerts and classrooms all over the United States, Portugal, Japan, Singapore and Ireland.

"We will be recording a new demo CD for our jazz catalog in September at Studio M in St. Paul - the same studio where the UW-Eau Claire jazz ensembles have recorded their CDs," said Franko, noting that the demo CD is used to promote new music to educators, and sound clips later will be posted to the Increase Music Web site at www.increasemusic.com.

Last semester Baca passed Franko's advice about the music business on to his students.

"Matt had a knack for keeping things positive and always seemed to enjoy the ride school was taking him on," said Baca. "It seems to be paying off."

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