If there’s a concert happening in the Wantagh School District, Matthew Lin is probably there tickling the ivories. It is unique for a student to serve as a piano accompanist for school concerts, but the Wantagh High School senior has leant his talents for more than a dozen elementary, middle school and high school performances for the past four years.
In December, Matthew played the piano at five shows – the middle school’s sixth and eighth grade concerts and the high school’s Chorale, Onora Le Voci and wind ensemble performances. He also accompanied all three elementary school choruses for the Long Island Music Festival and last year’s spring concerts, as well as other Wantagh student ensembles. He will be in the pit band for the upcoming spring production of “The SpongeBob Musical.”
His origins as a pianist date back more than a decade. Before he even entered kindergarten, he went to a music store with his mother, who was encouraging him to play the violin. Matthew, however, found himself drawn to the piano. He described the “majesticness” of the instrument and the clear and strong sound that it produces.
Working with a private teacher through the Amadeus Music School and practicing on his own with piano exercises from “Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist,” Matthew’s skills continued to progress. He was particularly drawn to classical music, and loved playing Chopin’s Waltz No. 1 as a child.
Wantagh choral director Sameerah Cassidy said during the 2019-2020 school year, she needed a piano accompanist for the winter concert and the band director recommended Matthew, then a freshman. She met with him and gave him 10 pieces of music, which he mastered over the Thanksgiving break. Matthew played for her when school resumed, and he landed the gig.
“He saved the day,” Ms. Cassidy said, adding that Matthew has played such an important role in the district’s music program, even accompanying other students for honors ensemble auditions.
Two years ago, Ms. Cassidy launched a new honors-level chorus class at Wantagh High School, Onora Le Voci. Matthew is enrolled in the class as the student accompanist, a position that was included in the course structure with him in mind.
“The chorus students understand the role that he plays and the sound he helps us create,” Ms. Cassidy said.
Added Matthew, “I’m really grateful that I’m so valued here. I really enjoy working with so many talented individuals. I am overjoyed that I can learn so many different types of music.”
One piece of music that stood out to him from the recent winter concerts was “Keep Your Lamps,” which was performed by the high school chorale. Matthew said it was very fast and intense with unique chord progressions, but he enjoyed the opportunity to learn and play a different type of music.
Matthew played the clarinet with the band through his freshman year and even earned All-County honors, but has since focused on the piano. Using a recording studio in New Jersey, he submits recordings to various international competitions. In the past year, he received second place in the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition and a gold medal at the AADGT International Young Musicians Competition, The Passion of Music. Last June, he performed at Carnegie Hall.
In college, he plans to study computer science or software engineering with a minor in music performance. Matthew said that wherever he goes to college, he will reach out to local school districts to see if he can serve as a piano accompanist for concerts.
Even if he doesn’t plan to become a professional musician, Matthew said his goal is to be able to play the piano at a level on par with the pros.
“It’s exciting for me that I’ve progressed so much,” he said. “There’s still a path for me ahead to improve.”
–Submitted by the Wantagh School District