Principal, MG Lighting Design
Matt Guminski says that lighting as a career actually chose him rather than the other way around. Theatre, touring or corporate, the profession has certainly been good to him with an impressive list of design credits to his name. A musician and Eagle Scout, see what makes this hard-working designer tick.
Where do you call home and where do you hail from originally?
Boston and Essex, Massachusetts (just north of Boston.)
I see you have a BFA in Lighting Design from Boston University, so you must have known that lighting was for you at a relatively young age. How did the interest start?
Actually, my career picked me. I got into lighting and theatre in high school. Before I even thought of lighting as a career, I saw an innovative and inspiring production of Dracula that my drama department put on and was bitten by the theatre bug. I started working backstage on the stage crew and helping with set construction. I was fortunate to go to a high school that believed in the arts and had many theatre classes. I took every technical theatre class that they offered. One of the classes that spoke to me was Lighting Design. Later in high school I was given the opportunity to light a main stage production of Guys & Dolls and I knew this is what I wanted to do with my career; everything just fell into place.
How did your career unfold?
Early on I would take any job in order to have the opportunity to design. I’d do 30 or 40 designs a year, from Summer Stocks and Small Regional Theatre to New Works and Educational Theatre. One day I received a call to do a concert at a local venue in the Boston area where I had the chance to light the incomparable Robert Cray. After that my career took a turn and I began working at several concert venues throughout the Boston area. This allowed me to continue pursuing my theatre career while getting the opportunity to work with a lot of different bands who didn’t have LDs. Eventually my name was floated to the Tour Manager of Neon Trees, who contacted me about joining them on the road. I’ve been with them for almost six years now. That opportunity allowed me to make a lot of connections in the industry and develop a diverse portfolio of clients.
Earlier this year you were called in to design JoJo’s Mad Love tour just a week before the tour launched. How does something like that happen or are you not allowed to talk about it?
From what I understand, the original design was too big and over budget so management killed it and shopped it out. My name was sent to the Production Manager and I got the call.
You used a lot of Elation on that tour. There is a lot of choice when it comes to lighting brands. Why go with Elation?
Mostly because of the relationship I have with Elation, but I’ve also fallen in love with much of the Elation product line. There are some cool products that can supplement theatrical designs and also work well for rock ‘n roll. More importantly the price point is right on. These days you are seeing a lot more rental houses going with Elation gear because of it. On a small club/theatre tour the budget is often non-existent. Elation offers products that can achieve a lot of the same desired effects as the larger brands. This allows me to get more product for my design without killing my budget.
Elation has launched quite a few fixtures of late, including the new theatrical fixture the Artiste DaVinci. Have you had a chance to look at it yet?
I did get the opportunity to check them out at Elation’s offices in LA. It’s actually funny you ask about it because I helped name the Artiste line! I was having dinner with John Dunn [Elation National Sales Manager] one night and he was telling me as much as he could about the new theatre line. I just threw out “Why not name them after artists, like DaVinci, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo?” I like that the name says it all. It speaks to artists and I am interested in implementing them on a future theatre design.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I look for inspiration everywhere in the world. Sometimes I’ll open up a trade magazine and try to discover what’s new that’s pushing the boundaries. I am constantly inspired by what my colleagues are up to. It’s some really great stuff. Other times I’ll unplug and just get inspired by what Mother Nature provides.
I also see you are an Eagle Scout, which is quite impressive. Has that had any impact or influence on your career?
It helped me build life skills and taught me to have a good work ethic. It taught me communication skills such as how to get a message across as well as the importance of team building and helping others. More importantly it taught me how to survive when you feel like you’re underwater and how to be self-reliant. Those are skills I learned at a young age, and I’m a better person today because of it.
What are you currently working on?
I just wrapped up two month-long tours with Tesla as the Lighting Director for LD Ignacio “Iggy” Rosenberg. In addition to that, I just opened 3 productions in the month of October: The NY Regional Premiere of the re-worked 10 person cast of "Ghost the Musical," which had Satura Profiles and Platinum Sevens on it; "Million Dollar Quartet" at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury CT; and the concert version of my friend's musical "Gay Bride of Frankenstein" up in NH. I also served as the programmer for LD Herrick Goldman on the Off Broadway move of “Puffs” to New World Stages. The show is using several Elation products including the Fuze, Satura Profile, SixPar, Colour Chorus, and 5 Color LED Leko.
What do you like to do in your off time?
I like to unplug from technology and getting back to nature as often as possible. I dabble on my Bass Guitar to keep up my rhythmic chops. I also love to extend my creativity to the kitchen and cook whenever I can.
Any advice you would give to a young lighting designer just starting out in this industry?
Stick with it. There will be ups and downs but stick with it and keep your nose to the grindstone. If an opportunity comes up, take it. You’ll always learn something. Meet people but also learn the gear and hone your craft. Whatever you do, don’t get complacent.
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