Taking the spotlight


Samantha Roth

Music has never been just an option for Matt Hensley – it has always been a significant part of his life.

The room is silent, with the slight exception of the players backstage. The crowd starts to move in their seats as the anticipation builds with each passing moment. Suddenly, a small beam of light is cast onstage. The band starts to play. This is a typical day in the life of Matt Hensley, KHS senior. Music has never been just an option for him – it has always been a significant part of his life, regardless of the form it takes. He first entered the music scene through dance, and he took his first hip hop lesson while in the 2nd grade. From there he developed his love for performing on stage and discovered that he would much rather play and produce music for a crowd.
“I’ve always been very rhythmically gifted and have used music as a way to express myself since I was a kid,” Hensley said. “I was still dancing when I played my first show, but immediately after I decided to quit dance because I realized that music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my teenage years.”
Hensley has only grown with his music from there, after finding a spot at School of Rock in 2014. This is where he has spent many days after school exploring his interest in different types of music. School of Rock is an organization that gives its students a platform to perform and learn about music. The program gives aspiring artists the chance to travel the Kirkwood area and show off what they’ve learned. He met KHS junior Eva Dodson through School of Rock, and they quickly became friends.
“When I first came to School of Rock, I picked up bass and joined the performance band. I met Matt a year and a half ago through this and we’ve been friends ever since,” Dodson said. “We recently started a band as well. We currently cover songs but we will start writing our own music soon.”
Hensley just recently auditioned for, and made, the “House Band,” which is the highest skill level that a student in the program can reach. Through this, he has the ability to perform with other students from the Kirkwood area as well as learn about different instruments. He performs in the House Band with KHS senior Grace Huber. Huber and Hensley have been friends since freshman year, and bonded over the similar interest they share.
“Matt’s music definitely has a lot of passion and it goes deeper than the surface level,” Huber said. “He has a very unique taste in music.”
Now Hensley plays in not only the general shows that the school puts on, but also the show specifically for the House Band. In addition to performing with other students, Hensley works as a solo act. Over the course of the past two years, he has written and produced his own original music. Through this journey he has found his signature sound that he resonates with, which he would describe as “alternative indie with a blend of electronic, hip hop and pop influences.” Hensley has produced several singles on the music streaming platform, SoundCloud, and is currently working on an EP as well as an album that is set to be released in the coming months on the same platform.
“Being on stage allows me to do what I’m so passionate about, it’s really the greatest thing I think I could ever do,”Hensley said. “ I’m constantly working on new things because creating and performing music is what I want to pursue later in life as my career.”
After he graduates from KHS in 2021, Hensley plans to take his music career to the next level. He hopes to attend Columbia College Chicago due to the professional studio and music program. Until then, he is continuing to find inspiration and make new content.
“There was never a moment where I wasn’t involved in music somehow,” Hensley said. “The only difference between then and now is that creating my own content has become an even bigger part of my life. I’m just so happy to be able to say that.”