children's theatre of elgin / fox valley theatre company

Matt worked with our organization for a decade officially joining the board as an artistic director in 2021. Matt served as the Musical Director for productions such as Mary Poppins, Little Shop of Horrors, Rapunzel, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Backwards Broadway, and The Music Man. 

Matt lived his life to make a difference for children and young adults in our community and was never anything but an inspiration and mentor to everyone around him. He was always positive, made a significant impact on our performers, and was the definition of a safe space for everyone. 

Losing Matt leaves a hole in many hearts and our organization will not be the same without him.

Every once in a while, there is a person so devoted to so many things that they manage to reach to the farthest corners and illuminate the lives of souls even in the darkest of places. They come and go, we meet them and part with them, and even when they’re not there, they still keep us growing and loving without cease. For many of us, for our organization, for our community, for our cast, for me, for you, for your friends and family, we can confidently say that one of those people has certainly been Matt Bishop.

The full story of Matt Bishop can be told by 1,000 people or more. He touched the lives of so many people, I feel there is a generation of musicians who can trace their love of music right back to him. CTE has seen and experienced many great music directors. They have come and gone and left their special imprint on the organization. That is, except Matt, because he didn’t leave an imprint; rather, he found a community that was already magnificent and allowed it to grow, to bloom into something more that we couldn’t even imagine. He was not like music directors of the past, present, or future; he was THE music director of the past, present, and future.

Matt changed us for the better, and for that, we owe him everything. In an isolating world, Matt connected everyone. Matt would never let anyone take away what makes you different, and what makes you, well, “you”. No matter what you ever saw in yourself, Matt saw your greatness. If you saw in yourself your short-comings, Matt saw awesome potential. If you saw in yourself your imperfections, Matt saw your wonderful character. If you saw in yourself failure, Matt saw immense opportunity. Any novice in the profession of music, or theater, or virtually any other musical profession, has experienced how generous Matt was with his knowledge. To be knowledgeable is one thing. Many people have walked the earth with great and immense knowledge. Matt was different than those because, of course, he never kept his knowledge to himself.

Now, Matt has left us, but not empty handed. Matt left us with the responsibility to carry on his legacy. In memory of Matt Bishop, we must make amazing music, we must pass music unto others, and we must strive for the best we can be. Rather than focus on what we are now missing, we must each strive to be that person Matt knew we could be. Each one of us is responsible for carrying on what he started in all of us. With his passing, my heart broke for all those students who had never mourned before, and now must face the greatest absence that many of us have faced in our lifetimes so far. I fear I will find myself wanting to reach out to Matt for a long time, seeking his wisdom and friendship, just like all of you. For now, we know what to do, and Matt, we’ll meet you again someday, Solla Sollew.

Thank you, so very, very much, Matt.

Earl Rigsby, on behalf of the Artistic and Production team of James and the Giant Peach Jr.

No words will do justice to Matt Bishop and the outsized impact he had on so many lives. I will share a few snippets because they do a much better job of capturing the essence of who Matt Bishop was as a person.

In 2017, my kids were in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at CTE’s sister organization, Fox Valley Theatre Company. Matt was the music director, and his duties included preparing the Children’s Choir. Of course, my kids, incoming fifth and third graders, loved him immediately like few people they interacted with. My youngest is an introvert and does not often show affection, but she would run over to Matt with a hug whenever she saw him. That was Matt Bishop.

When I was creating the concept for the song and dance review for CTE/FVTE Mashup: When Songs Collide, essentially creating new songs out of multiple existing ones, I needed someone who knew how to bring music to the stage, understood kids and their capabilities, and had the musical chops to really know if this concept could be pulled off. Of course, I went to Matt Bishop to vet it. This included one particular mashup with snippets of twenty-three songs fused together in five minutes. I knew that if Matt blessed this concept, particularly that mashup, we’d be able to pull the show off. Once Matt approved, I wanted Matt to be the Music Director for the show. But Matt said no – because he wanted me to hire one of his students instead. Even though Matt wouldn’t let me hire him, he still came to multiple rehearsals to work with the kids, which he did for CTE, the performers themselves, and his protege. He even brought in his personal sound equipment, as he did so many times, for us to use so that our performers could sound their best. After all of this, he refused to take any money from us and specifically did not want any acknowledgments, in the program or otherwise, for anything he did for that show. That was Matt Bishop

While Matt worked with CTE/FVTC for a decade, I was so glad that the pieces fell into place and that Matt was able to join CTE’s board in 2021. He believed that everyone, no matter who they are, should be able to experience the arts (and life) authentically as themselves. He found ways to connect with many of those who were most marginalized and made space for them. He would bend the rules to ensure that our performers were being served and ask for forgiveness later. He had among the best moral compasses of anyone I have ever known. He was often the key to why a show was successful and refused credit when people tried to give it to him. He was the safe person in many kids’ and people’s lives, and I experienced this firsthand in 2023. While the world is not as bright without him here, anyone who knew Matt still has his light within them and can help his spirit live on by shining a little bit brighter.

Veronica Comings, President
Children’s Theatre of Elgin / Fox Valley
Theatre Company