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 Handel's Messiah and Bach's Cantata on "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." At West End, 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 two organists on staff who plays the 136 rank Moller organ: the largest organ in Tennessee.
Under his direction, the Chancel Choir has been recognized throughout Nashville for
its excellence. Of West End's Christmas Concerts 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 led the Chancel Choir at the 2020 Southeastern regional convention of the American Choral Director's Association in Mobile, AL. in a performance of the music of Dan
Forrest. 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. In their fifth season, the ensemble has performed music ranging from the renaissance to the modern-day, including Nashville's first performance of all six Bach motets and premieres by local composers. They have performed with Nashville Symphony and the Chiftens and appearances on Nashville's Bachanalia and Live in Studio C. A regular guest conductor, Dr. Phelps made his Nashville Ballet debut conducting Peter Salem's "A Streetcar Named Desire" and 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. He regularly collaborates with the Elliston Trio, countertenor Patrick Dailey, and conductor Tucker Biddlecombe. He has performed solo recitals around the nation and is known for his interpretations of the music of Frederic Rzewski, including regular performances of "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," and "Ages," which the composer asked Phelps to revise personally. 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.

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