West End United Methodist Church

Matthew Phelps

Minister of Music

Dr. Matthew Phelps is the Minister of Music at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN.  At West End, he conducts the nationally renowned Chancel Choir weekly and performs major concerts with orchestra.   This coming season, Dr. Phelps will lead the Chancel Choir in performances of Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio and Haydn’s Little Organ Mass.  He will also conduct the Chancel Choir at the 2020 Southeastern regional convention of the American Choral Director’s Association in Mobile, AL.    He oversees a multi-faceted music department that includes two adult choirs, four choirs for children and youth, and two handbell choirs.  As an organist, he is one of three organists on staff who plays the 136 rank Moller organ; the largest organ in the state of Tennessee.
Dr. Phelps has put West End at the forefront of Nashville’s classical music scene.  Of West End’s Christmas Concert last year, the Nashville Scene wrote:  “In a season overloaded with dedicated repertoires, West End United Methodist Church reaches beyond the standard hymns and carols for an afternoon of festive selections that skirt Christmas norms.”  Dr. Phelps’ performances have been described as “beautifully prepared,” (Mary Ellen Hutton, Cincinnati Post) “beautifully shaped,” (David Katz, Chief Judge of the American Prize) and “moving and deeply meaningful.”  (Walter Bitner, Nashville Symphony Orchestra)  

Dr. Phelps is also the founder and artistic director of the professional chamber choir Vocal Arts Nashville.  Now in their third season, the choir will present three concerts featuring a blend of early music and contemporary choral compositions including Tallis’ Spem in Alium with Vanderbilt University, Monteverdi’s Madrigals of War and Love, and contemporary works by Whitbourn, Ravel, and Poulenc.   In November, Dr. Phelps makes his Nashville Ballet debut conducting Peter Salem’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Dr. Phelps is also a regular conductor with the Nashville Concerto Orchestra and the Mozart Birthday Festival Orchestra.  

An active organ recitalist, Dr. Phelps has played in churches around the country including St. Mary the Virgin, St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, Westminster Presbyterian in Dayton, OH, and Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. And his premiere of Trumpets of Light, written for him by Dan Locklair, was broadcast on NPR’s Pipedreams.     Dr. Phelps is also one of the most sought after pianists in the Nashville region.  This year he will perform recitals for the Nashville Symphony’s On Stage Series and will perform in residence at the University of Dayton and the University of North Carolina with the Ellison Trio.  He has performed solo recitals around the nation and is known for his interpretation of Frederic Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Defeated.  He has performed as a soloist with the Nashville Concerto Orchestra, Intersection, and participated in a complete performance of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas as part of a three-day festival with 20 other pianists.  He closed the festival with a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto conducted by Earl Rivers.   He is on the faculty of Lipscomb University where he teaches courses in theory and church music.   

Dr. Phelps is from Cincinnati, OH where he finished his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He worked extensively in New York City and Cincinnati before arriving in Nashville, and his choirs have performed at regional conventions of MENC and ACDA.   Dr. Phelps was the winner of the 2015 American Prize in Choral Conducting and has placed in performance competitions as both an organist and pianist.  He studied conducting with Earl Rivers, Mark Gibson, and Stephen Coker.  He has studied organ with Jerry Taylor, Thom Miles, Matthew Lewis, and Michael Unger.  He lives in Bellevue with his wife Colleen and son Noah and is an avid chef and chess player.