Hailed as one of the youngest children to ever conduct a 75-piece orchestra, 11-year-old Matthew Smith brought audience members to their feet at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. The Carlton schoolboy led Nottingham Symphony Orchestra during a charity event held on Sunday, April 2, which was attended by hundreds of people.
He conducted Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, which is nine minutes long and one of the composer’s most famous pieces of his 15 operettas.The talented Sneinton C of E Primary School pupil is a Grade 5 standard violinist and plays the guitar, drums, piano and viola. He had been practising with the orchestra once a week leading up to the show.
He first listened to Die Fledermaus when he was seven years old – and, having seen a video of a young child conducting the piece, really wanted to give it a go.
He told the Post just before taking to the stage: “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.”
The conductor of the orchestra and violin teacher, Derek Williams, discovered the young lad at age seven.
He said: “His mum came up to me when he was seven years old and said ‘my son wants to play violin’ so I found this battered old instrument and put it under his chin. Within two to three lessons, I thought ‘wow – what have we got here?’ You can recognise 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 afterwards’, 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.”
Proud mum Beverlyn Riley, 40, believes the experience is “fabulous” for Matthew, who also enjoys maths and football.
She said: “I was quite nervous for him because he is 11 years old and he is young. I just want him to enjoy the experience. I am very proud of him. Teachers see him and see he has this talent for music and offer their time. I think it’s fabulous.”