Matthew Sabatella connects people with music that is woven into the fabric of the United States. As a singer, instrumentalist, recording artist, performer, speaker, writer, and content curator, he illuminates the connection between music and the story of the United States. He founded and serves as president of Ballad of America, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and celebrate music from America’s diverse cultural history. Also to this end, Sabatella performs regularly as a solo artist and as the leader of the Rambling String Band. He is a guest lecturer at Lifelong Learning Institutes at the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, George Mason University, and Nova Southeastern University.
Serving on the board of directors for the Southeast regional chapter of Folk Alliance International (SERFA) and leading the Roots & Sources committee, Sabatella ensures that traditional folk music retains a prominent place at the annual conference and within the organization. In 2018 he was selected as an official SERFA showcase artist, and in 2019 he earned the first place ribbon in the Florida Folk Festival’s Old-Time Banjo Competition.
Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band have released three albums in the Ballad of America series, each with a different historical theme. Sabatella sees the possibilities for future recordings and releases as nearly endless. He recently debuted America’s Music: From Plymouth Rock to Rock & Roll, a 90-minute multimedia stage show that celebrates the music of America. Sabatella looks forward to a long career dedicated to performing, teaching, and carrying on the traditions of the music that he loves.
By 2001, Sabatella had released two critically-acclaimed albums as a singer/songwriter and provided musical support for a variety of rock/pop artists as a bass player and singer. Around this time, a folk music revival occurred within him, prompted by the acquisition of a six-CD collection called Anthology of American Folk Music. Sabatella had always leaned toward acoustic music but had relatively little knowledge of American music made prior to the 1950s. He certainly had not been an avid student of history, having barely survived his high school classes on the subject.
“Starting with the Anthology,” Sabatella recalls, “the history of the United States came alive for me as I began to understand people from the past through their music: early colonial settlers through the ancient ballads, religious songs, and dance tunes they carried to the New World; people in slavery through the spirituals and work songs born out of their suffering. Blues music, Appalachian folk songs, songs of frontiersmen, factory workers, sailors, cowboys, soldiers, railroad workers, activists, and others are all ingredients in the great cultural stew that is the United States of America.”
Since that epiphany, Sabatella has been singular in his mission to share this rich musical heritage with others, both for the sheer love of the music and for its value in inspiring people to better understand each other and America’s past, present, and future. Building on his Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Miami, he resumed formal schooling in 2013 and earned a Master of Arts in History from Florida International University. Sabatella continues to take every opportunity to study singing and banjo with such masters as Alice Gerrard, Sheila Kay Adams, Paul Brown, Richie Stearns, Kirk Sutphin, Mac Benford, Walt Koken, Brad Leftwich, Bob Carlin, and Rafe Stefanini.