Matthew Olshefski- The Shirtless Violinist
We have another wonderful guest interview for you today. We’d like to welcome Matthew, the Shirtless Violinist, to the Divine stage.
Matthew is a classically trained violinist who’s been playing the violin since the age of 3. He’s passionate about his music to the point of taking the shirt off his back back” to help people in need — all the while creating beautiful music, making exciting new videos, and promoting a healthy, fit lifestyle. (no doubt you can tell from his pictures)
I’m sure you’d all like to get to know him a bit better, so we asked him some quirky questions…
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
I’ve been given a lot of great advice from people who I admire in life – but the one that has stuck with me the most was told to me by my mother when I was 10 years old: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” It’s a quote from Einstein and it applies to everything I’ve ever done in life. I’m not the most inspired or naturally gifted violinist in the world, but to get where I am today I had to be consistent and disciplined by practicing every day.
If you had to describe yourself as a flavour, what would it be?
I’m a little bit spicy, oftentimes sweet, and I have a zest for life. I think the perfect flavor to describe myself would be “ghost pepper lime chocolate.” It also happens to be very tasty!
If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?
Fun question! I wouldn’t pick Mozart because people might think they’re at the Opera. There’s Bach, but the counterpoint might be too complicated. Besides – they’re both dead! I would get John Williams to write my national anthem because he has a knack for writing music that’s instantly recognizable — often at the first two notes! Also, I just love Star Wars!
Do you prefer Honey or Jam?
When I was a kid I always preferred honey with my peanut butter sandwiches, but now I gravitate to jam because of the many different flavors. It’s not uncommon for my boyfriend, Paul, to find me in the kitchen polishing off an entire jar of apricot jam with a spoon and sheepish grin!
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
“Caution! May contain nuts”
What historical period would you like to live in if you could go back in time?
Allow me to geek-out with my answer! I have always been a big fan of Baroque period ensembles and I’ve wanted to give period-playing an attempt myself …. So, if I were transported back to Bach’s day, I could give those sheep-gut strings and snakewood bow a try! Was that geeky enough?!
So, Matthew. We’re sure everyone wants to know what prompted you to get your shirt off (your boyfriend Paul, I think, was the one who suggested it first) and play the violin at the same time. We’ve even seen you on silks dangling upside down with a naked torso, playing a violin. Tell us a bit more about your ‘Music and Muscles’ philosophy and why you do it.
It’s actually quite simple! Developing and training your musical skills is really no different than developing and training your muscles at the gym! Both of these things require daily discipline, focus, and diligent work. If you want to excel at anything you need to be fully committed to it and I wanted to bring these two things (music and muscles) together in a fun way. The reason I do it is two-fold: I want to entertain, but I also want to inspire my audience into action. That is why I offer tips on a healthy lifestyle in addition to teaching the violin as a profession. I want others to experience the rewards of playing classical instruments as well as having a healthy body!
Making classical music sexy is a catch phrase of yours and you’ve gone to great lengths to take the stuffiness out of playing classical music to show people it can be fun, sexy and contemporary at the same time. Do you think we often take ourselves too seriously and that the world is a little too conservative in some areas?
I hope what I’m doing injects a little fun, humor, and sex-appeal into a classical music world that is largely devoid of it! On a whole, I think it’s important to embrace both conservative and liberal points of view, and I have a lot of respect for both sides. There will always be some backlash from people who prefer more traditional musical performances – just as there will always be people looking for something different in the classical music community. I think I fall into the “something different” category and I’ve been having a lot of fun doing it!
You’re a great believer in contributing to charities and those less fortunate than yourself. You label yourself a Community Activist. Tell us a bit about this.
I’ve always wanted to use my violin in a powerful way that brings beautiful music and people together. Music has the ability to move us and connect us across racial and cultural divisions. Having volunteered to help the homeless and socially marginalised, I wanted this venture to raise awareness for those with addictions and mental illness (both very prevalent on the streets of most communities.) In September of last year, I launched the “Shirt Off My Back Challenge” which simply asked my audience to consider donating clothes and goods to their local charities as well as healthy food to nearby Food Banks. In addition, I have sold t-shirts (go figure) in order to raise money for The True Colors Fund and The Trevor Project. Both of these funds are geared toward the LGBTQ community and they are near to my heart.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone to get them following the path they truly wish to, what would it be?
Nike said it best: “Just do it”
“The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.” – Jascha Heifetz, renowned violinist who is synonymous with technique and musicianship
What does your typical practice routine look like?
When I was a kid my parents helped me get into my daily practice by setting a little timer each day. When I pressed the start button I began to play and I didn’t stop until the buzzer went off. Now, as an adult, I don’t need a timer because I love playing music so much that it’s hard to step away!
What’s next for the Shirtless Violinist? We understand there is some reality film show in the works that you can’t talk about just yet, but what other things are you planning for the future?
There are so many projects in the works! The next music video is going to be a follow-up to our “Gay Disney Fairytale” twist on Beauty and the Beast. It has been our most successful music video thus far, so Paul and I decided we should tackle another classic. Here’s a hint: I might be sporting a mermaid tail!
Divine would like to thank Matthew for giving us this wonderful interview, and we can’t wait to see him in whatever he’s planning next.
Here’s where you can catch up with him