📝By Eric Xiao
Musician of the Month is a series of SJAM Music blogs that highlights the accomplishments and experiences of one outstanding SJAM Music student each month. The Musician of the Month for June is Matthews Ma!
To conclude this year’s SJAM Musician of the Month series, we decided to highlight an incredibly gifted and admirable musician: Grade 12 student Matthews Ma! Having participated in a wide variety of ensembles and made impacting contributions within SJAM Music, there’s absolutely no reason why you haven’t heard his name yet. Not only is he a model SJAM Music student, his musical involvements outside of school are nothing short of awe too!
Similar to many of the SJAM Music students here, Matthews enrolled in Grade 9 Music simply to obtain an art credit. Although he had musical experience prior to high school, having practiced and played the piano for quite some time, music just wasn’t a big part of his life back then. However, all of that was about to change as he progressed through high school. One day during his Grade 9 Music class, his friend Kayden Chan showed him a jazz piece by famous saxophonist Charlie Parker. As you may know, Parker’s sax solos are incredibly sporadic and “all over the place,” making them incredibly difficult to analyze and properly enjoy; this was certainly the case for Grade 9 Matthews Ma when listening to Parker’s music for the first time. However, as he continued to listen to the track on his own, the music started to become more familiar to him, to the point where he was actually enjoying Parker’s solos. It was from this moment that Matthews grew a larger appreciation for various genres of music, especially jazz, and after witnessing a few of SJAM Music’s signature performances, his view on the subject would drastically change for the better.
As an SJAM Music star, Matthews can play many different instruments, such as the piano, violin, bass clarinet, saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone), trumpet, and drums! His first ever instrument was the piano; around the same time, he picked up the violin as well, but quit shortly after (until joining String Ensemble much later in high school) as he only wanted to focus on learning one instrument. At first, playing the piano felt like an immense chore to him and he didn’t enjoy the classical music pieces that were part of the curriculum. He progressed slowly throughout his youth until he finished with his Level 8 Royal Conservatory of Music Piano Exam in Grade 10. In middle school, Matthews had the chance to pick up another instrument; for their school band, he really wanted to play the saxophone, but was assigned the bass clarinet instead because he missed out on the day where the band got to select their instruments. : ( Not to fret though; he was finally able to play the sax—his go-to SJAM Music instrument—in his SJAM Grade 9 Music class, starting with the alto, then moving onto the tenor, baritone, and soprano! As for his other minor instruments, Matthews started learning the trumpet last summer when he rented one out at Long & McQuade (he says it’s incredibly taxing on the lips : ( ), and he got his own set of drums for his 16th birthday.
With so many instruments under his belt, it’s no wonder why Matthews also has a whopping number of musical extracurriculars. At SJAM, he took part of (but not limited to): Junior Band and Jazz, Senior Band and Jazz, String Ensemble, Clarinet Ensemble, Tahir’s Peers, and his all-time favourite, the SJAM Matilda band! Outside of SJAM, Matthews was also a member of the local KW Youth Concert Band, and in his spare time, he creates online music videos as part of a small group called Triad Music (find their channel on YouTube and make sure to like, comment, and subscribe : ) )!
Why is Matthews so passionate about music? To put it simply with his own words,
“it sounds good.”
In more specific terms though, he enjoys exploring different genres of music and discovering new, exhilarating soundtracks, as well as listening to his own musical performances. Matthews also admires the “togetherness” aspect of music, being able to play with others in a tightly-knit ensemble and communicate with each other and the audience in a different “language.” Finally, he finds engaging in music to not only be a worthwhile high-school activity, but also a place where he made many of his closest friends.
Like many other SJAM Music students, Matthews partakes in various non-musical hobbies and interests. Most notably, having competed at several hackathons and done a few tech internships, as well as organizing an eco-themed hackathon called Hack the Earth, his passion for computer science shows no bounds. He is also a seasoned expert in photography and film, having edited many videos (musical and non-musical) and documentaries and taken stunning pictures. In his spare time, Matthews likes to go on bike rides and play video games (e.g. Rocket League, League of Legends, CSGO, etc.) with his friends.
To beginners in music and new SJAM Music students, Matthews encourages them to
“join all the ensembles you can.”
From personal experience, he found this to not be too much of a time commitment, but he also found these experiences to be incredibly memorable and rewarding for his growth. Another incredibly important piece of advice Matthews offers is to
“enjoy the music you play.”
He explains that if you’re “into” the music you’re playing, you will surely improve your performance abilities and naturally get better at your instrument. Last but not least, Matthews’ favourite quote/tip is
“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
(Kudos to you if you know which SJAM Music student is known for this quote : ) )
For his postsecondary studies, Matthews is set on pursuing Software Engineering at the University of Waterloo next fall. He has future aspirations to lead his own successful tech company; let’s hope they come true!
Matthews Ma has undeniably made a huge impact within SJAM Music and even the local music community as a whole! Highlighting his spectacular musical (and non-musical) accomplishments is truly a great way to end off this year’s Musician of the Month series, and let’s hope that his music continues to spark others along his future journey!
Editor’s (Eric Xiao) note: Wow, what a way to wrap up SJAM’s first ever Musician of the Month series! This has truly been an amazing journey, getting to know the unique backgrounds and impressive accomplishments of many of our fellow SJAM Music students! Although I will be attending university next fall (thereby graduating from SJAM and SJAM Music : ( ), I hope that the future SJAM Music Council can carry the torch and continue this awesome series of blogs!
Until then, have a banger of a summer everyone, and keep on pursuing your musical passions! 🎶