Student Spotlight: Matthew Smith

A photo of violinists.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Matthew Smith is 11-years-old. And he’s an 11-year-old with aspirations. The British schoolchild from Carlton, Nottingham is an accomplished violinist who also dabbles in viola, piano, and percussion, and now is adding another feather to his musical cap: conductor.

On April 2nd, he’s set to become the world’s youngest orchestra conductor, leading the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Die Fledermaus at the Royal Concert Hall.  The previous holder of the title was a 14-year-old boy from Venezuela.

He fell in love with Strauss’s operetta when he was only seven, when he first heard a recording of it.

“I’d seen a video of a young child conducting the nine-minute piece and really wanted to give it a go. I managed to conduct the whole thing a few weeks later,” Smith said in an interview with the Daily Mail. Now, he’ll be conducting the piece for the 75-seat orchestra entirely from memory.

Neil Bennison, who is the music program manager for the Royal Concert Hall in charge of the concert at which Smith will feature, is outspokenly impressed by the young man.

“Successful conductors have to be team managers, leaders, motivators, and diplomats, and these people skills take time to develop and require a level of maturity that only comes with years of experience,” said Bennison. It was his decision to include Smith in Nottingham Symphony Orchestra’s “Animal Magic!” show. (Other featured pieces in the theme will include Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf).

Nottingham Symphony Orchestra’s regular conductor, Derek Williams, is Matthew’s violin teacher. The two have worked together since Andrew was six years old, a talent worthy of the name “prodigy.”

“There aren’t many children who have the ability to conduct a 75-strong orchestra from memory and it’s a really incredible thing to witness,” said Williams.

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