By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
You’ve probably seen him on campus. Maybe you’ve noticed his chic, monochromatic capsule wardrobe and envied its cool simplicity? Maybe you, like so many members of the campus community, were dismayed when he cut his signature long hair in February 2020. (Some people loved it. Some people were horrified. We debated it for weeks.) Maybe you have just always wondered who the guy with all the cameras, lights, and sound equipment is? His distinctive “behind the scenes” style, coupled with the fact that he is present at almost every SUNY Broome event, makes Matt Ebbers ‘15, the College’s resident photographer and videographer, a campus fixture.
This has been a big year for Matt Ebbers. In the past few months alone, he was honored with the 2022 Young Professional HYPE Award in the Creative Industry by the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and won a 2022 SUNYCUAD Citation Award in Excellence in the “on a budget” video category. This award highlighted his Fall 2021 Open House promotional video that he specifically crafted for Snapchat. In addition to officially documenting daily campus life at SUNY Broome, Ebbers runs the audio recording company, Side Room Sounds, which specializes in helping musicians with their live and in-studio recording, editing, and mixing. Just when you think there aren’t enough hours in the day, Matt finds ways to add even more breadth to his multimedia specialist portfolio, whether that be through photographing family portraits for friends or breaking into the world of wedding videography. Ebbers’ multimedia talents are unquestionable. Always gracious and humble, Matt never hesitates to attribute his professional skills and successes to the foundation that he received as a student at SUNY Broome.
Born in Irving, Texas, Ebbers spent his early childhood in Poughkeepsie, NY before relocating to Owego when he was nine years old. The youngest of four children, Ebbers was primarily educated at home and showed an early interest in the arts.
“When I was ten years old I got really into Led Zeppelin, grew out my hair, attempted to play the guitar, and defaulted to the drums. I was hooked,” said Ebbers.
Thanks to a homeschool co-op experience, Ebbers was able to take a photography class which perfectly complimented his other interests. He pooled his savings and went to the electronics department at Boscov’s to purchase his first camera. This experience shaped Matt’s future love of researching, testing, and price matching equipment. (If you ever have any questions on what camera or sound system to purchase, where to buy it, and what the pro’s and con’s of its competitors are, Matt is your man!)
Ebbers attended Owego Free Academy for high school and found outlets for his passions through joining music ensembles and serving as the photographer for the yearbook. When it came time to look at colleges, Ebbers tagged along to SUNY Broome’s Fall Open House with a friend. While he unquestionably loved music and photography, Matt had always planned to study psychology or human services in college to eventually become a therapist. On a whim, he took a tour of the sound studio in the Applied Technology Building and was hooked.
“I said to myself. If I don’t pursue music now, I never will… and SUNY Broome is the perfect place to do it. If I love it, I will have the foundation that I need. If I don’t, I just explored my options in the most affordable way possible,” said Ebbers.
As a music student, Ebbers had quite a bit of catching up to do. He had zero exposure to music theory and was asked to be part of the College’s first fundamentals course. He happily agreed, just like he did when he was asked to join the jazz band and the campus choir. While he enjoyed his theory and his performance classes, he was overwhelmingly drawn to the newly developed Music Recording and Production track.
“I didn’t even know that sound engineering was a career path until I came to Open House. I initially just looked at it as a practical skillset to develop. In its most basic function, I would be able to record and produce my own music. But as I learned more, I realized that before anything else, I am an audio person and this is what I was meant to do with my life. The program has changed and enhanced so much since my time at the College in 2015 and I am continually excited to see its developments,” shared Ebbers.
Associate Professor/Chairperson of Music and Theater Arts/Coordinator of Music, Brenda Dawe, places a huge emphasis on building connections with music schools across the state and the nation. These connections help facilitate direct pathways for transfer, especially to music programs and conservatories within the SUNY System. When it came time for Matt Ebbers to continue his studies, he followed in the footsteps of many other SUNY Broome music students before him and transferred seamlessly to Purchase College (a State University of New York) for Studio Production.
During Ebbers’ final year of college, he was tasked with curating a senior capstone project. While he didn’t know much about video production at the time, he decided to team up with a film student and create “True Folk TV,” a program that featured live recordings of a band’s two to four favorite songs, followed by an interview. While his portion of the “True Folk TV” project was supposed to focus on the sound recording piece, Ebbers soon found himself behind the camera as well. On days that his film student counterpart couldn’t make it to a taping, Matt rented videography equipment from the school and learned on the fly.
After graduating from Purchase College, Ebbers elected to continue his “True Folk TV” project as a way to maintain his network of musicians and recording specialists, while simultaneously building a portfolio. While audio production was a passion, video production became a necessity based on the needs of his clients. Soon, he found that videography and photography were also meant to be part of his professional life. The next few years were spent balancing a wide variety of gigs within the worlds of editing, recording, sound engineering, and more. When Ebbers’ longtime girlfriend, Jess Petrylak, noticed an advertisement for a part-time technical assistant at SUNY Broome, she knew that he would be the perfect fit.
“It worked out beautifully that all of my jobs and gigs over the past few years helped me to develop the skills to fit the needs of SUNY Broome’s Office of Marketing and Communications. I didn’t fully realize this until I was applying for a full-time position at the College and was piecing together my portfolio for the interview. It was an aha moment for sure,” said Ebbers.
Since then, Matt Ebbers’ daily pursuit is to visually capture the SUNY Broome experience and share it with the community at large. No day is the same and each assigned project forces Matt to play the “which do I like better… audio, video, or photography” game. Each day concludes with a different favorite multimedia medium and a new, creative perspective.
“I recently was reading an obituary of a young person and noticed that the photo that accompanied the obituary was a Snapchat selfie with filters. It really affected me. I was so struck that the photo that was selected to memorialize this special person was just a quick image from a phone. It really made me value the importance of documenting your life and memories through photos,” shared Ebbers.
Some of Matt’s favorite SUNY Broome photoshoots include an on-location shoot at the home of Peter Vallese Sr., a member of SUNY Broome’s first graduating class, and a session with Professor David Zeggert in his studio amongst his portraits. A lover of local history, Ebbers jumps at any chance to photograph SUNY Broome’s Culinary & Event Center. SUNY Broome’s 75th Anniversary brought Matt some extra creative projects including an aerial, drone-based photoshoot of members of the faculty and staff situated in the shape of a giant 75 and the “Faces of SUNY Broome” campaign, where Ebbers captured 75 headshots of employees from across campus.
On the video side, Ebbers “75 Questions” series was a fun, lighthearted experiment, while he also loves digging deeper with his academic program profiles.
While we are confident that Matt Ebbers would have made (and still could make) an excellent therapist, we are thrilled that he came to SUNY Broome’s Fall Open House years ago and allowed himself to survey all of his possibilities. Matt’s career exploration as a high school student led to SUNY Broome’s benefit, as we proudly value him as a member of our staff. Be like Matt Ebbers and don’t hesitate to explore all of your academic and career options at SUNY Broome’s Fall Open House on Saturday, November 5, 2022 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm. Register for SUNY Broome’s Fall Open House Today!