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Remembering Matthew Hazelwood, 10 years on

Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra conductor Matthew Hazelwood with student
Interlochen Center for the Arts
Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra conductor Matthew Hazelwood with student

May 31 marks the 10th anniversary of longtime Interlochen Arts Academy Symphony Orchestra Conductor Matthew Hazelwood’s death.

Hazelwood led the orchestra from 1993 to 2008, when he joined Colombia’s national youth music program, the National Batuta Foundation, and became artistic director and conductor of the Colombian Youth Philharmonic.

Hazelwood had a direct impact on thousands of students through his work with Batuta.

Colombia’s government established Batuta in 1991, aiming to make music education accessible for all while addressing pressing social issues like poverty and discrimination.

Hazelwood and many of his IAA colleagues worked with Batuta to establish a robust network of youth orchestras and highly trained classical musicians in Colombia, reaching more than 47,000 students in 2012.

Hazelwood's musical career actually began in Colombia, where he was a percussionist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia.

After nine seasons with the orchestra, Hazelwood and his wife, Constanza, moved to Michigan, where he directed the Michigan State Opera Theater and Battle Creek Symphony before he joined Interlochen's faculty.

Hazelwood was dedicated to broadening young musicians’ experiences; he invited the Costa Rica Youth Symphony to Interlochen, traveled with students to lead them in a performance at Carnegie Hall and welcomed NPR’s From the Top to Colombia to share Batuta students’ work.

Maestro Mateo Hazelwood -- From the Top at Carnegie Hall

His colleagues remember his enthusiasm for young musicians and vision for his ensembles’ potential.

“His ideas are inside every one of us: the students, the faculty, the directors, the administrators, the staff. We miss him, but we also feel his presence every day, and in a way, he is still guiding us,” Crispin Campbell, who taught with Hazelwood at Interlochen and in Colombia, said in a Colombian Youth Philharmonic tribute to Hazelwood.

Kacie Brown was IPR's Digital Content Manager until 2023.