Field Education Profile: Matt Puckett

Sharing Music in Times of Crisis

Categories: Field Education Profile, Student Profile

The Ryan Keberle Big Band at Jazz Vespers, November 10, 2019


What happens when a legendary neighborhood jazz ministry has to go virtual?

Matt Puckett, a second-year MDiv student, is interning with the jazz department of Saint Peter’s Church in New York City this year. This Lutheran church has a history of supporting many types of art. From the fine arts to classical music, Saint Peter’s has also been the home of a jazz vespers service since the 1960s.

“The idea was to help serve the jazz musicians in the neighborhood who weren’t going to make it to an early morning service on Sundays,” said Puckett.

The jazz vespers is one of four services that the church produces, including Spanish language masses, and takes place later in the afternoon and early evenings on Sundays. While all of these services used to be possible to attend in person, with participants from across the tri-state area, they’ve had to move online to account for public health and safety during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

While Puckett’s field education placement looks different than he initially thought it would, he’s been able to help make videos with the small number of jazz musicians and vocalists who partner with the church. There are also Zoom versions of a program called Jazz 4 All; when everyone could meet in person, this program allowed people to bring their own instruments and create never-before-heard music together.

This hybrid placement has allowed Puckett to work in a unique church environment while also attending staff meetings that meet virtually. While his placement started back in October, he and the team have been able to fall into a rhythm. Remaining flexible while providing stability has been their main challenge. Puckett worked in the music industry prior to attending Union, including with the Grammy-winning team behind the 2015 Best Children’s Album and the indie orchestra, Mother Falcon; he’s no stranger to collaboration and working toward shared goals.

“It’s been amazing to see how a community navigates crisis together,” said Puckett, “and how music can play into that.”