A Primary School British pupil, Matthew Smith, has become the youngest person to conduct an orchestra after leading 75 musicians from the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra (NSO).
The NSO concert was part of Animal Magic, a show organized by NSO to raise money for Hope Nottingham, which helps disadvantaged people in the city. It held at London’s Royal Concert Hall on April 2.
The child prodigy who also plays the violin, drums, piano, guitar and viola, began playing when he was seven years old and was trained by NSO conductor, Derek Williams.
The young boy who is already so excited about his new found fame said: “I’m now asked for my autograph as I walk to school.”
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Speaking during an interview just before his musical feat where Johann Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus was played to an audience of 1,300 persons, Matthew Smith said:
“I have never conducted an orchestra before, so this will be my first time. I love all the instruments coming together to make one amazing sound. I am kind of famous – some people ask for my autograph when I am walking to school now!
“I don’t know if conducting will be my future but I will carry on doing music. I know one day that I will conduct again. Staying in time and knowing when to go and when to stop – that’s what makes a good conductor.”
Matthew Smith had been practicing with the 75-strong orchestra once a week over the past few weeks. He said he became familiar with ‘Die Fledermaus’ at age seven. Smith said he got his inspiration in wanting to become an orchestra conductor when he saw another young boy from a different country conducting.
“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,” he said.
His proud 40-year-old mother, Beverly Riley said she was quite nervous for him because he is 11-years-old and he so young. “I just want him to enjoy the experience, I am very proud of him,” she said.
Smith’s trainer, Derek Williams said Matthew has an inherent natural ability the like of which he has not seen for 30 years.
Williams reveals that Smith’s mom came up to him when he was seven years old and said ‘my son wants to play violin’ so he found a battered old instrument and put it under Smith’s chin.
“Within two to three lessons, I thought ‘wow – what have we got here?’ You can recognize talent. We went from there and within six weeks, he was playing Ode To Joy in front of his whole school.
“Two years ago, I said ‘look at this piece over Christmas – Strauss’ Die Fledermaus – then I will give you a conducting lesson afterward, but he had already conducted it all the way through from memory. I told Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, ‘I have got a nine-year-old that is going to conduct you’ and they said ‘no you haven’t’ and it went from there,”
“I told Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, ‘I have got a nine-year-old that is going to conduct you’ and they said ‘no you haven’t’ and it went from there,” said Williams.
Neil Bennison, music programme manager at the Royal Concert Hall, said young conductors like Matthew are rare.
“Successful conductors have to be team managers, leaders, motivators, and diplomats, and these people skills take the time to develop and require a level of maturity that only comes with years of experience.
“Orchestras can be pretty merciless to conductors for whom they have no respect, so you’d have to be a supremely confident young maestro to win over a lot of hardened professional musicians.
“The other thing is that conductors have to carry a huge amount of repertoire around with them and be able to deliver performances of very different music week in, week out, knowing the ins and outs of all the orchestral parts,” he added.
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Matthew Smith became the world’s youngest conductor by beating the previous record of a 14-year-old boy who directed the Venezuelan youth orchestra of 70 musicians.