Matteo is a music group made up of four members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who served their missions in Taiwan, China. While on their missions they discovered a passion for Chinese music. That passion led them to learn new instruments that have allowed them to present a type of music that is different from anything heard in the United States.

Introducing Matteo – the band from Salt Lake City, Utah that plays Western folk music songs that are interpreted on Chinese instruments. Their inspiration may be old, but the sound that they produce is something definitely new. Matteo is comprised of four 20-somethings: Eric Chipman, his wife Brinn Bagley-Chipman, Jordan Riley, all of whom speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, and Luke Williams.

“You just agree, I’m going to be a missionary and wherever you send me, I’ll go,” Bagley-Chipman said. “You just get a letter and you open it up and you realize you are going to be in Taiwan for a year and a half or two years.” [1]


Brinn had been to China before as an English teacher. She is a talented violinist, but in Matteo she is often called upon to play the erhu — an iconic Chinese instrument, a fretless fiddle with a slender neck and just two strings.

The thought of going to an overcrowded Asian city to serve his mission was a bit overwhelming for Eric.

“Before I got assigned, I couldn’t have thought of a place I wanted to go least,” Chipman said. “I hated big cities, I hated crowds. I was honestly terrified of it.” [1]

When he wasn’t busy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Taiwan, Eric enjoyed spending time hanging out in music shops, checking out the different traditional Chinese instruments. One of the instruments, the guzheng, piqued his interest.

“The guzheng is the one I would always go to because I sounded better playing it than the other ones,” Chipman said. “It was just like you sat down and the people I’d be with would be, like, you’re really good at that thing.” [1]

Matteo Utah MormonShipping the instrument home to Utah wasn’t easy or cheap, but Eric began using the guzheng in his music. The first song it really worked in was Sweet Sweeping Joy, which is on the band’s first album, The Morning Market.

When they recorded the album, they had not been trained in any way and were not exactly experts on playing Chinese instruments. And so, wanting to become more proficient at their playing, the band spent six weeks last summer studying music at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China where they learned just how incorrectly they had been playing their Chinese instruments.

“There is just a very certain way to play the instrument,” Bagley-Chipman said. “Innovation and trying a different way isn’t necessarily valued. When we played things that were new or different it was just confusing to them, rather than being cool.” [1]

The members of Matteo did eventually learn to play their Chinese instruments better and more authentically. They also recorded a new EP, which they called The Sichuan Project. The songs on the album are still rooted in American indie folk music, but Eric is no longer afraid of Taiwan or China. He says, China is just bigger.

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