Matt Cappy Is Tooting His Own Horn

New Jersey-born trumpet player discusses his career journey and working with legendary artists such as Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Photo: The Recording Academy
    Matt Cappy
May 29, 2012 -- 5:58 pm PDT

If you ask trumpet player Matt Cappy how he found his way into a career in music, he might say there was a bit of "luck" involved. Of course, his monumental talent also represents a big part of the equation. Drawn to music as a child, Cappy has parlayed playing trumpet at Overbrook High School in New Jersey into becoming a first-call musician who tours the world and records with artists such as Jay-Z, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and Earth, Wind & Fire. In an exclusive interview with, Cappy discussed his impressive career journey, artists with whom he's collaborated, touring and recording, and his involvement with The Recording Academy, among other topics.

"I really have to say it was by … luck," says Cappy about his introduction to music. "Because my father was from New York, my mother [was from] West Virginia [and] they got transferred down here to Philly. And they just happened to pick this town randomly and it literally happened to be an amazing hot bed for music."

Cappy has collaborated with a hot bed of talent, recording with GRAMMY winners such as Jackson, Wyclef, Jill Scott, and Floetry. On the concert stage, he has performed with Scott, Maxwell, the Roots, Kirk Franklin, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Common, and Jay-Z, to name a few. Along the way, the New Jersey native has become a world traveler.

"It's been an amazing 12-year ride with some amazing artists," says Cappy. "Starting back in the day with Jill Scott, I had never been west of the Mississippi River before so I finally got to Los Angeles in 1999. Fast-forwarding … to 2010, Jay-Z opened up for U2 and it was my first time going to Australia and also Japan."

In touring with exciting live acts such as the Roots, Cappy and his trumpet help form a unique union of human and electric elements. The sonic combination of electric instruments such as bass and guitar with wind instruments is second to none, according to Cappy.

"When you have actual moving air … that wave, that coming together between the horn section's air and whatever you have already established with guitars, that's the most powerful mix of a blend that there is in music."

Michael Jackson's Thriller was the first album Cappy ever purchased. In an interesting turn of fate, nearly 30 years later he found himself playing on Jackson's 2001 album Invincible, which included the hit "Butterflies." Despite his impressive résumé, even seasoned musicians such as Cappy can become nervous in the studio while in the company of legends.

"[The] Earth, Wind & Fire session was the most scared I've ever been behind the glass. Maurice White [and] Verdine White [were] on the other side of the glass," says Cappy regarding his stint with the legends on the band's 2005 album Illumination.

In addition to his recording and touring regimen, Cappy stays active on the local music scene, where he is a teacher at his alma mater, the University of the Arts, and current The Recording Academy Philadelphia Chapter Governor. Through his involvement in The Academy, Cappy feels a sense of community and inspiration.

"Every year, I keep meeting more people, from our city and other cities," says Cappy. "It's inspiration[al] — you hear more stories. It's people who have been there, done that, continue to do that. It's important that the arts communities share those stories, stay together, help each other out, and try to build that positive energy."

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