When Matt Gregory first asked A Alanda to marry him more than 30 years ago, he was taken aback by her answer.
“He was going away, and before he did, he asked me; I said no,” said A Alanda, as she’s known professionally, slowly breaking into a laugh. “He didn’t wait for me. He left. Life happened. He got married. I got married. We had children. We got divorced. Life happened again. One day, things just brought us back. And we picked up right where we left off, as if we had never been away from each other.”
“It’s because I’m such a handsome devil,” Matt chimed in, slyly smiling.
Now wed for seven years, the pair’s story is not only one of a second chance at first love but also of the partnership in building creative outlets that serve as the couple’s common ground and aim to provide a platform for local musical artists.
Originally from Chicago and calling Dubuque home for the past eight years, the two have immersed themselves in the local creative sector — A Alanda, 51, as a writer, speaker, public relations director and personal development coach who also works as a library assistant at Carnegie-Stout Public Library; and Matt, 49, as recording engineer at the helm of Asylum Recording Studios and for The Smokestack, both in Dubuque.
The couple also has embarked upon an effort they’ve christened Dub City Radio, a free internet-based station that boasts multiple genres from local artists representing a smorgasbord of cultures.
Additionally, they’re a part of a group that is in its infancy known as the Dubuque Renaissance Project, which aims to connect local arts organizations with Black artists.
“We want to create a space where people who feel as though they haven’t had a voice creatively can express themselves and share their work — particularly for young people and Black creatives in the area who are interested in getting involved but find it difficult,” A Alanda said. “It’s important to assist young people an help encourage them to develop something. Many of them have no idea how to get started. It’s not about becoming famous but being grounded in the community. It’s a hard process, but that’s what we love about Dubuque. There is a sense of grounding here and a lot of support for the local arts.”
The couple began dabbling locally in the area’s arts scene in 2014, volunteering with Dubuque’s Voices from the Warehouse initiative. That led to involvement on the City of Dubuque’s Arts & Culture Commission.
From there, both said they identified a variety of needs to enhance Dubuque’s artistic community. Among them, engagement and mentorship opportunities for young and diverse artists and to house a studio space for recording, sound engineering, radio and other promotional services to help more local music makers get heard.
“We enjoy watching projects that come out of nowhere seeing their finished product, whether it’s plays or music,” A Alanda said. “We love seeing the end result.”
That special “end result” is akin to the couple’s love affair.
Love at second sight
A Alanda initially met Matt through her younger sister, who had taken an interest in him.
“When she liked a boy, she used to take their stuff,” A Alanda said. “One day, I was looking out the window, and she had this guy pinned up against a wall, holding his scarf and telling him that if he gave her a kiss, she’d give him his scarf.”
Matt pleaded with A Alanda to retrieve the garment.
Two years later in 1987, A Alanda and Matt were reacquainted at the basement party of a mutual friend.
“I didn’t even know it was the same person,” A Alanda said.
Matt, however, was smitten.
The couple began dating, went their separate ways, then reconnected nearly 17 years later, eventually rekindling their romance.
They got it right the second time around, Matt said.
“We came back together as friends first,” he said. “We’ve been good friends for more than 30 years. To me, the foundation of any strong marriage is friendship, and we’ve always been able to be that for each other.”
Creating together, yet separately
Enjoying each other’s company and frequently referring to one another “best friends” and “soul mates,” they also maintain their sense of independence, frequently pursuing their own artistic aspirations while offering each other ardent support.
A Alanda described herself as the “mouthpiece” of the couple’s collaborations, putting her business savvy skills to work, while Matt takes on the technical side and creativity in engineering sound.
Both complement one another but know when to step out of the other’s limelight, something each agreed has been key to their marital success.
“It’s a partnership, but we don’t put a damper on what the other person is doing,” Matt said. “We get out of the way. In true partnerships, you have to get out of the way and let the other person follow their dreams. That’s the only way to truly make relationships work. We’re also not clingy. We have a mutual respect, and we give each other space.”
The couple also have managed to blend their families. Both have adult children from their previous marriages. A Alanda also has grandchildren.
“The kids are all grown, so we let them be independent and do their thing,” A Alanda said. “Family time happens when it happens. We don’t force it.”
That can be helpful amid the couple’s busy schedules, when the creative juices are flowing.
“We always have something we’re working on, whether we’re together or on our own,” A Alanda said. “It just works between us. We complement each other. We’ve figured it out.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.