13 year old Matthew is in the final year of his violin Scholarship and will be graduating this month. Matthew is an inspirational musician and we are so proud of him.
Following the tragic loss of family friend last year, Matthew raised over £1000 busking to fund a memorial bench. In recognition of this, he won the Argus Young Community Star of the Year award. Matthew’s Mentor at Bromley Youth Music Trust told us that music and playing the violin were a great help to Matthew during such a difficult time. Matthew has also performed at care homes, a wedding and a village carnival. In addition to preparing for his Grade 4 exam, he plans to continue busking to raise money for local community projects and charities, in his friend’s memory.
Matthew with his Young Community Star of the Year Award
Read Matthew's Q&A here:
Why did you decide to play the violin?
I grew up listening to folk music and always enjoyed watching the fiddle players. I was particularly inspired by Ric Sanders and Chris Leslie of folk band Fairport Convention. I wanted to play the violin because it looked fun and lively. When I was two I had a toy plastic violin which I adored and used to pretend I could play like the fiddle players I had watched but I didn’t think that I could play properly because I have a hearing loss.
In 2012 my dream came true when after chance meeting with The Osmonds I found out about their charity The Hearing Fund UK that helped bring music to the ears of deaf children like me. To my surprise and amazement the Hearing Fund UK presented me with my first violin and lessons - I can’t believe that was 7 years ago now. The first tune I learnt was ‘Any dream will do’ because they had made my dream come true.
Playing the violin has changed my life and helped me develop my confidence and be proud of who I am. At primary school I wanted to show people I could be good at something. Now I am not just Matthew with the little ear and hearing loss but as Matthew who plays the violin. I also wanted to show people that anything is possible and having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.
Has your music taken you to some cool places? If so, where?
Playing my violin has led to opportunities to perform at all sorts of different places and meet lots of interesting people. It has given me a way to communicate with people and bring pleasure into other people’s lives. Most important of all for me it gave me a way to cope with the extreme grief and sadness of losing a very dear friend – my best buddy – Vic Hilton. I was devastated when he passed away last year and wanted to do something special to remember him as he was a special person in my life. When I play now I do it for Vic because he always encouraged me – I wish he could see what I am doing now.
I decided to use my music to raise money to buy a memorial bench for Vic on the seafront at Lancing where we spent many happy times. I took my violin and started busking and was blown away by the response and interest. As a result I not only achieved my goal of the bench but to my surprise I won the Argos Young community Star of the Year Award in January this year. I could not have done this without the skills and confidence I have gained playing the violin.
My music has led to opportunities to play at many different places including the Grand Theatre in Leeds, various charity events, village halls, local radio and even a wedding. I love playing outside and particularly enjoy playing regularly at village markets. After one of the Scholar playing days at City Hall in London I went outside on the balcony overlooking tower bridge and played ‘Lord of the Dance’. That was pretty cool!
Through my playing I have been lucky enough to meet lots of interesting people who have inspired me like The Osmonds (and even singing on stage with Donny Osmond), Fairport Convention, Ralph Mctell, and Nigel Kennedy.
What music do you like playing the most?
I love a variety of different music. Growing up listening to folk music has given me love of folk music from musicians like Fairport Convention and Ralph Mctell. I love playing music that I can see people enjoy.
I love the violin because it is so versatile in the sounds and moods and feelings that can be created from lively dance to slow sad tunes. My favourite tunes to play at the moment - and ones I really enjoy playing - are Despacito, Wake me Up by Avicii, and Pachelbel's Canon. But I also love fiddles tunes like Swallowtail jig or Soldiers Joy and watching people start clapping their hands or stomping their feet to join in. It’s the power of music I love that can connect me with people. When I play to residents in care homes and see how my music can bring pleasure and see them interact with me that is the greatest reward. There’s nothing more wonderful than seeing the joy that my music can bring to others.
If you could perform alongside someone famous who would it be?
I would love to perform alongside big name violinists like Nigel Kennedy, Lyndsey Stirling and Andre Rieu. But having seen Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk ensemble perform at a festival and at a proms event I went to through the London Music Fund I would really love to be part of something like this as they play with such energy and are incredible and awe inspiring. I have been fortunate to play alongside Justin Osmond and violinist Christopher Watkins which was fantastic fun.
One of my ambitions though is to one day join my favourite folk band Fairport Convention on stage at their annual Cropredy music festival as I have been going to the festival every year since I was very young.
Has the Scholarship enabled you to have new opportunities?
As part of the scholarship I have attended three spectacular playing days at City Hall, the Festival Hall and Royal Academy of Music. The scholarship also enabled me to attend an amazing Prom concert at the Albert Hall.
Most importantly the scholarship has meant a lot to my mum as it provided financial support to enable me to participate in two different ensemble groups at Bromley Youth Music Trust which helped me develop through being able to play alongside other violinists and meet other kids who had similar interest. Things have been very difficult for me and my mum so the scholarship funding was essential to enable me to pursue my music.
What advice would you give Scholars who are starting a Scholarship this year?
What I would say to any new Scholar (or anyone really) is grab every opportunity and make the most of it because you will regret it if you don’t – nobody knows what is round the corner. I am so glad I have my music to help me cope and make me happy, and I have the skills and confidence now to use what I have learnt.
I would also say to any new scholar – it's not about being the best or getting top grades or passing exams – it's about being passionate about what you do and most of all enjoy making music. Don’t dread the ‘P’ for practice word – instead make the ‘P’ word mean play – just play and enjoy playing and carry on playing!