Webster U alum Matt Vogel, the man behind Big Bird and Kermit the Frog, to deliver commencement speech
Earlier this month, Matt Vogel was in London for the coronation of Britain's King Charles III.
“It was insane. I was sitting in the royal box on my tush 12 feet from the king of England and the queen of England,” Vogel said. “They were all in line, and there's me coming in with a frog on my arm and laying down on the floor.”
Vogel didn’t have just any frog. With him was Muppet royalty: Kermit the Frog.
Now back in the United States, Vogel has returned to St. Louis to deliver the commencement address at Webster University. He graduated from Webster with a bachelor's of fine arts from the Sargent Conservatory of Fine Arts in 1993.
Vogel is also the puppeteer behind iconic characters including Big Bird and Count von Count from "Sesame Street."
As Big Bird, he got to slow dance with former first lady Michelle Obama and sing at NPR’s Tiny Desk.
Vogel’s path to puppet stardom began at an early age. Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, he crafted his own puppets from materials around the house. He grew up watching the "Muppet Show" and was a fan of Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets. By 1996, Vogel was Caroll Spinney’s understudy. Spinney was the original performer of Big Bird.
“I'm probably stronger musically; however, Caroll roller-skated as Big Bird. I can barely walk as Big Bird,” Vogel said on St. Louis on the Air. “I think there are things that I bring to him. But it's hard for me to identify. … I'm always trying to remain true to the heart of Big Bird, who is this optimistic, wide-eyed 6-year-old.”
Vogel’s commencement address on Saturday morning is sold out but will be livestreamed.
For more on Matt Vogel’s expansive career and how he thinks the Gorlok — the mascot of Webster University — would sound, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher, or click the play button below.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com.