English alumnus releases debut EP Metamorphosis

Lee Miller Matsos '06

In September 2023, Lee Miller Matsos ’06 released his debut EP Metamorphosis, Pt. 1. The EP is the first of three installments of his album Metamorphosis, which explores life as transformation and evolution arising from struggle. It’s an album of creative and emotional rebirth and resiliency. Metamorphosis adopts the butterfly as its artistic motif symbolizing transformation. “The caterpillar has to be totally broken apart in order to eventually become something more beautiful,” said Matsos. 

As a student at The College of Wooster, Matsos was deeply involved with the Department of Music and the music community on campus. Throughout his four years at Wooster, Matsos trained vocally in opera, sang as a member of the Wooster Chorus and in the student a cappella group A Round of Monkeys. 

He declared an English major in his sophomore year, after taking a course about the Beat Generation taught by Nancy Grace, professor emerita of English. In her class, Matsos found unexpected familiarity in the works of Beat authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg. “It’s just so amazing how that can happen,” he explained, “whether it’s music or poetry or novels, they can speak to you, and they can speak to your experience.” The comfort of that resonance propelled him into his own creative work, culminating in his creative Independent Study project. “Monarch,” the title of Matsos’s I.S., was an autobiography retroactively investigating different experiences in the previous year of his life. The title is inspired by the monarch butterfly, a symbol of hope and renewal for Matsos. “I kept seeing all these monarch butterflies,” he remembered. “Every time that happened, I felt this sense of comfort, this sense that things were going to be okay.”  

After graduating, Matsos was accepted into the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied opera for a year, but decided he wanted to move in a new direction creatively and professionally. Putting music on pause, he moved to Seattle and later Washington, D.C., working various jobs in journalism and public relations but couldn’t envision a long-term career in any of these areas. 

His mother passed away in 2016, and in the midst of the grief, Matsos began to reconcile his own mortality and ambitions. “I had this revelation,” he said, “which was, what is stopping me from going back to music school? I just realized that fear was the only thing that was stopping me.”  

Since his year at the San Francisco Conservatory over a decade earlier, Matsos had pivoted, trading opera and musical theater for a contemporary style. In 2018, he enrolled at Holland College in Prince Edward Island, Canada, a partner of Berklee College of Music, committing wholly to his new sound. While a student, Matsos began writing the songs later featured in Metamorphosis, Pt. 1. In the summer of 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry on the island shut down. “It was this beautiful scenery, and it looked like there should have been more people there and there weren’t,” Matsos described. In the unusually desolate P.E.I. setting, Matsos wrote most of what would become his first album 

For Matsos, the album is, in part, a way of processing the struggle in his own life, reflecting his own earnest vulnerability. He explained that the music taps into his own desire to be authentic, adding, “I have a really strong desire in my own life to be authentic and to have authentic relationships and to talk about what’s real.” The album pulls on the threads of his previous artistry, including his I.S. project and autobiography, “Monarch.” To him, Metamorphosis Pt. 1 draws on the feeling of recognition that can be found in everything expected and not—like the works of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg, or a butterfly—and continues the exploration of knowing and being known. 

Ultimately, the EP is a call for the real and authentic from listeners as well as Matsos himself. As he affirmed: “The music is an invitation to accept all of our experiences, especially the difficult ones. It’s an invitation to accept the beauty of painful experiences and the gift that those are, even if we don’t see it at the time.”

Posted in Alumni on May 20, 2024.

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