Understatement alert: NYU is a big, big place. Think of the dozens of people you might nod hello to on a typical day—in the dining hall, at the library, between buildings, or behind a particular desk. How many do you know by name? What do you know about their lives?
By day they are office administrators or landscapers, technology specialists or event managers; by night they’re parents and poets, activists and athletes—and so much more. They’re the dedicated staffers who keep this place running, and in this series NYU Stories will go behind-the-scenes at their day jobs—and also reveal how they let off steam after work. (We’re coming for you, dude in the Bon Jovi cover band!) Look for a new and often surprising interview every other week or so. You might just see a familiar face.
Name: Matt Shelosky
Hometown: Nazareth, PA
Title: Department Analyst, Department of Public Safety (since May 2014)
Previous NYU gig: working in the office for Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions—while completing a master’s in arts administration (2011-2013)
What do you do each day?
I handle all of the data that comes into the Public Safety department, and I massage it to make it palatable and understandable not only for our team, but also the for executive operations team and on up to the university president. By data, I mean everything about all the incidents we have on campus, whether larceny at Bobst somebody getting sick and needing us to take them to the health center. I also handle communications—so I manage our website and our social media properties, and I create marketing materials.
Have you noticed trends in the public safety data?
Things happen when students get distracted—when they’re, say, studying for exams, trying to find an apartment, and dating someone new. Around finals especially, people get really forgetful—they lose a laptop, or keys, and Public Safety is there to help. That’s definitely a trend you see in December and May—people tend to lose their stuff, whether it’s actually been stolen or not.
Any advice for new students about how to stay out of trouble in the big city?
Have a blast, but if you don’t want it on the front page of the New York Times, don’t do it!
We heard you’re a musician.
I play jazz—piano and saxophone. When I was in the master’s program here, I played with Steinhardt’s jazz groups, and now I play parties, weddings, and special events throughout the city—Gracie Mansion, things like that. I’m glad I’ve been able to take my music with me to the city and not lose it. Everybody wants to play, and there are only so many places to do it—so I’m grateful for these opportunities and the amazing people I’ve met.
Which musicians inspire you?
Herbie Hancock is one—for his sound, but also the way he carries himself. He’s super professional, and also one of those people who walks into a room and everyone feels a connection to him. Also, I have to say Billy Joel: His life is one of those crazy trains all over the place, but the way he writes and plays is amazing. When you analyze his music against Bach or Beethoven, it makes sense—it’s the same kinds of chords, which is why it sticks in everybody’s heads.
What would you recommend as an easy introduction to jazz?
You’ll find out if you love it or not if you go to the Village Vanguard on a Monday night: It’s a big band in a small place playing basically the same music they’ve been doing every Monday night since 1965. The other thing I’d say is to check out the Great American Songbook—tunes from Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Gershwin. Something like “I Got Rhythm”—that’s an easy introduction because people like songs with words, things that have a clear beginning, middle, and end. But for real jazz in the city, definitely the Vanguard on Monday nights.
And for the connoisseur?
I go to Smalls, also in the Village, and a new place called Mezzrow off of 7th Avenue. It’s tiny—you might only be able to fit 30 people in there—and it’s just unamplified piano. People go to play there because they know it’s that kind of place—a real musician’s music room.
When did you start playing?
When I was five, I went for classical lessons. It was great at first, but then I started fiddling around with the tunes. By age seven my teacher couldn't handle it anymore. She said, “You don’t play the music.” And I said, “But this sounds good.” So I switched to another teacher to get half classical, half jazz. It's one of those things that I’m never going to give up. It’s always going to be a part of who I am.
Can you listen to music while you work?
Oh yeah—I rely on a few digital streaming jazz stations, one from Seattle and others from Italy and France. Cranking up the music really helps when I’m designing marketing materials. When people come by the office and I’ve got the lights low and the music going on, it’s like all that’s missing is the smoking jacket.
What’s the most unusual performance you’ve seen in the city lately?
I was on a mailing list for Jazz at Lincoln center, which alerted me to the Brooks Brothers holiday party. Tony Danza and Jason Robert Brown were there doing Christmas carols—so that was...special. Tony Danza tap danced right there in the middle of the Brooks Brothers store, to promote that Honeymoon in Vegas show he’s in on Broadway.
How do you unwind after a long day at work?
Work out. I have a gym in my building, so I have no excuse not to, even in the winter—I’m on the two-year plan to run races and qualify for the marathon. There are times when I hit a stride and three or four miles pass without it feeling like I’ve been running at all. You don’t always find that, but when you do, it’s incredible.
What else brings you peace?
Oh man! Well—I fall asleep listening to sports talk radio. I come from a family of Notre Dame fans, and my very first job was working as a board operator for a local ESPN radio station. So after all that, something about listening to or watching sports just makes me feel content.