Meet the SFS Musicians: Viola Matthew Young

Matthew Young

Viola
Member since 2012
Hometown: Herndon, KY

San Francisco Symphony violist Matt Young has spent thousands of hours practicing…and thousands of hours driving farm machinery. He was raised on a sixth-generation family farm in Kentucky, “a unique childhood for a symphony musician; to be a kid in the outdoors with siblings all the time was a huge gift.”

While driving those tractors, Matt would sometimes listen to classical music on the radio, including memorable SFS broadcasts with Herbert Blomstedt and Michael Tilson Thomas. “I had no idea playing in an orchestra was a profession I could pursue, but music was something that helped me know myself and the world around me better."

Nobody in Matt's family played a stringed instrument, even though a fiddle had been passed down through the generations. “My grandmother signed me up for lessons when I was about eleven. I'd rather have been riding horses or ATVs! But I give my parents credit for not letting me quit. I progressed from bluegrass fiddle to viola when a student string quartet needed a violist, and I had the biggest hands." He went on to study at the University of Kentucky, Yale School of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied under Robert Vernon, the renowned Principal Viola of the Cleveland Orchestra. “Bob Vernon taught me what I know about how to operate the machinery of a viola, that's for sure.”

Matt firmly believes in giving back to the community that supports his art form. “I did dozens of community engagement events last year, including performances at the Botanical Garden, juvenile halls in SF and Santa Cruz, the Institute on Aging, the LGBT Center, SF schools, the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, and the Raphael House in the Tenderloin. I've truly enjoyed taking music off the concert stage and into the community. Our art form is at the same time hundreds of years old, and evolving rapidly, an amazing time to be in the trenches evolving with it!”

Matt has made a difference in the community in other ways. “I spoke in the Symphony Pride video a couple of years ago (bit.ly/SFSPride), and I've been moved by the people who have thanked me for simply being a visible member of the LGBT community. Growing up, I didn't meet a single person who was out until I went to college, so I understand why it’s a privilege to speak up and be counted, when there are so many who cannot.”

Remember those thousands of hours of practicing? “Sometimes, onstage in Davies Symphony Hall, I realize that we, the musicians of the SFS, collectively have millions of hours of practice under our belts. We've each taken very personal and diverse paths to find each other in San Francisco, and that is awe inspiring to me. It’s an incredible case study in teamwork and beauty.”

 

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