No need to roll over, Beethoven: Matthew Fleisher has you’re back.
Indeed, he’s at the forefront of a school project to bring the classical composer to the attention of youngsters possibly more familiar with hip-hop than highbrow classical.
A junior at Abington Friends School, Matthew is part of a sextet of students who carry a tune for Carol Frieder. the longtime, now retired, AFS teacher who works with the Philadelphia Orchestra in its program to invite classrooms from inner-city schools to attend special concerts wrapped around Beethoven’s music.
Matthew and the other AFS emissaries visit these schools in advance of the concerts to familiarize the kids with the composer and help make a classical connection.
Music has been his world “all my life,” says the 17-year-old son of Renee and Lee Fleisher of Blue Bell. “But it wasn’t really until 10th grade that I decided I wanted to do something in music.”
Matthew plays tenor sax, clarinet, piano and sings in his school chorus. And then there’s all that jazz; he jams with groups locally. But how did such a proficient jazz band member ever bond with Beethoven? “I have always loved the work of Beethoven because he has the ability to be tangible to all audiences while still having a level of sophistication that excites musicians.”
Matthew has always found excitement, too, about his favorite composer, Leonard Bernstein. “I remember doing a project in Hebrew school about influential Jewish ‘celebrities’ and my celebrity was Leonard Bernstein,” he says of the late legendary conductor/composer whose works influenced him to first take up clarinet.
Volunteering takes up a lot of time from Matthew’s already hectic schedule but he's not complaining. He gets as much as he gives, he says: “This experience has really inspired me to strive for the betterment of music education. Music provides me a sense of community and grants me the ability to express myself through a truly beautiful outlet.”
That outlet allows him to plug into his own school’s system, where this member of the AFS US Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble also serves as musical mentor to fifth graders studying clarinet, notes Christopher Buzby, the school’s director of instrument music.
Matthew helps “bring them along with basic skills, all while modeling proper embouchure, breath support, tone production and strong musicianship.”
As with the other students who are participating in the Philadelphia Orchestra program, says Buzby, “Matt is ensuring that classical music lives on in schools” in an environment “where recent cuts have depleted or removed music from inner-city school programs altogether.”
Talented as he is, Matthew is an all-star gone All-State. Buzby is proud to note that Matthew’s just been named to represent AFS, after highly competitive auditions, at the 2013 All-State Concert Band Festival taking place April 17 to 20 in Erie, Pa.