Matt Stewart, the longstanding trumpet player for the American ska punk band Streetlight Manifesto, passed away on September 10, 2023, at the age of 41. The band confirmed his death was due to natural causes. As tributes pour in, it’s evident that Stewart’s impact extended beyond his musical contributions. He was a man who touched the lives of many, both within and outside the music scene.
Early Years with Streetlight Manifesto
Matt Stewart joined Streetlight Manifesto in 2007, replacing Delano Bonner, who had himself replaced the band’s original trumpeter, Jamie Egan. Founded in the early 2000s in New Jersey by Tomas Kalnoky, Streetlight Manifesto has been a staple in the ska punk community. Stewart became a key part of the band’s musical journey for 16 years.
Stewart’s trumpet work features prominently on Streetlight Manifesto’s three latest albums: The Hands That Thieve (2013), 99 Songs of Revolution: Vol 1 (2010), and Somewhere in the Between (2007). The band described his talent as “undeniable; raw, powerful, and alive.” Whether it was cutting through the mix or soulfully singing along, Stewart’s playing was always perfectly pitched to the emotional needs of the song.
A Friendly, Wandering Spirit
Beyond his musical prowess, Matt Stewart was known for his approachable personality. Whether he was outside clubs, backstage, or online, he was always open to engaging with fans and newcomers alike. The band noted that Stewart “often had a stranger with him,” whether a fan excited to meet him, a local crew member, or even a random individual. Stewart was never rude and was quick to make new acquaintances.
Impact on the Community
While some knew him strictly from records or live shows, others had the opportunity to interact with him directly. Matt was as likely to talk your ear off about jazz as he was to put your name on the guest list for a show. His passing has left a void, not just in the band but in the hearts of those who knew him.
On Instagram, Streetlight Manifesto said, “Today you lost a musical powerhouse.” They continued, “Today you lost a friendly, wandering spirit.” Indeed, Matt Stewart was a rare individual who could balance immense musical talent with an endearing, down-to-earth personality. As the band and fans alike mourn his loss, his impact on music and people will undoubtedly continue to resonate.