New SHU theater director records music for Macy’s Thanksgiving parade

FAIRFIELD — Millions of viewers will get to experience the work of Sacred Heart University Community Theatre’s new director this Thanksgiving.

Fairfield native Matt Oestreicher, has not only worked with a number of famous musicians, but he also recorded all of the music for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“I’ve been doing this since 2017,” he said. “I’m part of the core music team for the parade.”

During the two days he was recording music for the parade, Oestreicher and a group of producers and musicians spent hours in a recording studio. They collaborated with a number of musicians — from Broadway acts to pop singers and seasoned vocalists.

Oestreicher said it was a high-pressure situation, adding the pieces will be heard by millions on parade day.

“The performers came in and out of the studio, sometimes with music prepared and sometimes not. For those who didn’t bring music, Oestreicher and his team put something together on the spot,” Sacred Heart University said in a release. “The team was led by the ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ music director, Ray Chew.”

Oestreicher started working at the communty theater a few months ago. A release from the university said he is thrilled to bring his vision, as well as world-class acts, educational opportunities and films, to the downtown-Fairfield establishment — a venue he frequented as a child.

He plays a number of instruments and writes and produces music. He has worked Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Alicia Keys and has played Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater in New York City.

“He said he can’t wait for the theater — a dynamic, professional venue — to play a role in the lives of SHU students and the greater community,” the university said.

Oestreicher started taking guitar and piano lessons at an early age, according to SHU. He played in bands with friends and started taking his talents to clubs and music halls during high school, coming in first place for piano and second for guitar at the Connecticut All State Music Awards.

“I was really lucky I had parents who nurtured me throughout my musical endeavors,” Oestreicher said, adding seeing Broadway shows with them exposed him to the power of art and its ability to unite people. “It’s what life is about … art provides you with this connection to the wider world.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Tufts University and a bachelor’s in music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Oestreicher was engrossed in eastern Chinese philosophy and immersed himself in meditation and yoga for four years.

“I really focused on finding a deeper understanding and meaning of life,” Oestreicher said.

Eventually, he moved on to a slightly more traditional way of life with his first musical gig — playing on cruise ships.

“It was a great way to travel and see the world,” he said.

After that stint, he moved back to Fairfield to be with family, and began playing at local venues and making connections with up-and-coming bands. Oestreicher eventually joined the band Chester French, which traveled the country touring with Lady Gaga, Blink 182, Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Gym Class Heroes.

“In addition to playing an instrument for the artists that I worked with, I always had multiple roles, whether producing, arranging, writing or contracting,” Oestreicher said. “Chester French was a very savvy band as they were one of the last bands to get a major record deal and the very first band on Facebook.”

Chester French connected with Facebook because band members attended Harvard University with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, SHU said. The band would often have people like Zuckerberg and other technology leaders in their social circle or on their tour bus.

“Taking part in and hearing conversations with these young visionaries showed me a different view of the world,” Oestreicher said. “These people had a desire to change the world, and they believed they could. I grew up thinking I needed to fit into a certain role, and I was meeting with people and making friends who had a totally different belief system. It introduced me to another level of opportunity.”

In 2011, Oestreicher moved back to Connecticut and was hired as part of the music team for the Apollo Theater in New York City. His work at the Apollo led him to several television and Broadway productions as well as events like the landing of the Mars Rover and the Nobel Peace prize ceremony. He also formed a production company.

“My affiliation with the Apollo shaped my mission for the SHU Community Theatre,” Oestreicher said. “The Apollo is such an inclusive place, and we want to bring that same feeling to the Community Theatre.”

He said living in different places around the world, touring and meeting people with different life experiences, helped him transform into a global citizen.

“I want to bring the world to the community theater and let people in the community experience things they might not otherwise get to see,” he said. “I want to create works that inspire and give young people a great experience.”

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com