Currently the Artistic Director of The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, Matthew also serves as Chorus Master at the Lakes Area Music Festival. Known especially for his work preparing choruses, his ensembles have been lauded as “...excellent throughout” (Star Tribune), “A strong choral performance…” (MLive), and “...bring[ing] additional notes of beauty and urgency to this production” (Talkin’ Broadway).
From contracting choruses for national tours of Distant Worlds: The Music of Final Fantasy and The Eagles, to preparing professional opera choruses, Abernathy’s work spans all ages and experience levels. From 2016-2022 he was on staff at Minnesota Opera where he most recently served as Interim Chorus Director for the Opera’s professional chorus. In addition, he has been Music Director of Project Opera, the company’s nationally acclaimed youth opera program, Chorus Master for the Minnesota Opera Children’s Chorus, and Founding Conductor of Voices of Opera, the Opera’s adult community chorus. He regularly worked as an Assistant Conductor and Section Leader for Minnesota Chorale, assisting in preparing projects for Minnesota Orchestra including their recording of Mahler Symphony No. 8 (BIS Records).
Other notable conducting appearances include the Bach Society of Minnesota, Dakota Valley Symphony Chorus, Oratorio Society of Minnesota, Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, The Summer Singers, Opera MODO, Arbor Opera Theater, 113 Composer Collective, Norfolk Chamber Choir, and the University of Michigan Choirs. He has collaborated with conductors including Michael Christie, Christian Reif, Jonathan Brandani, Nicholas Kraemer, Kenneth Kiesler, Larry Rachleff, Kathy Saltzman Romey, and Christof Perick.
Beyond his performance work, Abernathy is a devoted pedagogue and champion for music education and art-making at all ages. In his work with Project Opera, he mentored and coached young talent, continuing the program's successful legacy which has produced singers currently performing at LA Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Glyndebourne, Houston Grand Opera, and many others. He played an integral role in the creation and success of Minnesota Opera’s Voices of Opera, an adult community chorus which performs semi-staged scenes from famous operas, and served as a Teaching Artist for Minnesota Opera’s El Sistema program, Music Out Loud. In the collegiate setting, Abernathy has been on the faculty at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota where he conducted choral ensembles and taught ear training. His research focuses on musicianship and aural skills, with a particular emphasis on advanced musicianship training for conductors, which he has studied with Kyle Blaha at the Juilliard School.
Abernathy has furthered his studies at the Medomak Conductors Retreat, Chorus America Conducting Academy, and Norfolk Chamber Choir Workshop. His mentors include Kathy Saltzman Romey, Jerry Blackstone, Duain Wolfe, Matthew Mehaffey, Eugene Rogers, and Kenneth Kiesler. He holds degrees from SUNY Potsdam—Crane School of Music, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota.