Musical interaction

Paul West in music class with student Aidan McNamara and teaching assistant Jackie Haller.

Paul West has filled several roles at Matheny and done them all well. As a teaching assistant in the Matheny School, he was named Paraprofessional of the Year. He has also worked as a recreation therapy assistant and a one-on-one aide. Now, he’ll be doing what he loves most. He has been named the school’s new music teacher.

West has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of Arts in Los Angeles and an undergraduate degree in music theory/composition from Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. He was also part of a quartet that was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year in the “Best Classical Compendium” category for a recording of the music of esoteric composer Harry Partch.

As music teacher at Matheny, West is looking forward to enhancing the music experiences of the students. “Teaching at Matheny,” he says, “is no different than composing music. One needs to break down specific subject matters, analyze their most basic elements and reassemble the information in a relatable way.”

Our Grammy nominee

Paul West playing the kithara.

Matheny School teaching assistant Paul West could soon have something none of his colleagues have—a Grammy award.

Here’s how it happened. While studying for his undergraduate degree in music theory/composition at Montclair State University, West became familiar with a man named Harry Partch, a classical music composer who invented unusual instruments to be used in the performance of his compositions. The Cali School of Music at MSU is the home of the Harry Partch Institute, which has the largest collection of Partch instruments in the world.

Then, while studying for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the California Institute of Arts in Los Angeles, West joined a quartet that recorded Harry Partch: Bitter Music (Bridge Records), the first-ever complete recording of Partch’s rambling diary with music. On the recording, West plays the kithara, a 72-string harp based on the ancient Greek lyre. The album has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the ‘Best Classical Compendium’ category.

The Grammys will be presented on February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but, whether or not Bitter Music wins, West is happy that Partch will have received some recognition. “It’s nice to see some kind of awareness for a great American figure who nobody knows about,” he says. He and his wife, Matheny music therapist Alissa West, will be attending the awards ceremony.