Monday, June 18, 2018

Taminophile profiles The Shirtless Violinist!

OK, I usually profile singers, but I was so interested in how Matthew Olshefski, aka The Shirtless Violinist (just look at him!  **swoon**), has attracted people to classical music that I reached out to ask a few questions.  He has a presence on all sorts of social media, and the links are below.  

To start, some videos:

Is there anything in your background that is not easily found in your public web sites that you'd like people to know?

I don’t often get the chance to talk about the teachers I’ve had the opportunity to study under as I was growing up and learning to play the violin. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week (as he was writing the answers--some time has passed), so I would love to mention how grateful I am for the time I spent with my teachers, including Almita and Roland Vamos, Ruggiero Ricci, Benny Kim, Zakhar Brohn, and Dorothy DeLay.  You asked about overcoming problematic teaching, and I can easily say I've had great teachers from the start.

You and your adorable boyfriend make your relationship very public.  Any concerns or regrets about that?  Benefits vs. costs of various kinds?

No regrets at all! Paul and I are happy to represent the LGBT community as a loving couple in a healthy relationship. The more opportunities we have, as a community, to portray gay relationships in a real way - the better! This has become an important aspect of what we do. The beauty of social media is that we control it; we keep certain things private, and choose to share others. 

Since you've become known as The Shirtless Violinist, how has life changed?  

I get to record music regularly, interact with fans around the world, and plan these exciting music video projects. All of that is new to me - and I absolutely love it. But when you get right down to the day-to-day of life, not much has changed at all! I go the gym; spend quality time with my boyfriend; run errands; watch Netflix; and I still have my day job as a violin teacher. I’m the same person, just with a few new things thrown into the mix!

I've talked to singers and other artists about marketing and brand.  What is the most important thing about your brand?

The answer is an evolving one! In the beginning I would have said it’s all about the music and the beauty of the violin. My body and physique have always just been an added bit of fun, it’s not the driving force behind what I’m doing. But as the platform has grown and the videos have found a new audience, I have discovered that the brand is about representing the LGBTQ community and portraying gay relationships in a positive and relatable way. Although the brand will always remain music-focused, Paul and I have both been delighted to become part of LGBTQ visibility on a global scale.

Of course you get a lot of notoriety about your looks.  I've talked with male singers who often sing shirtless about this--do you think it detracts from your brand, or becomes your brand?  (I recognize this is how you first achieved widespread publicity, so that will affect how you answer this question.)

When I decided to start performing shirtless, I did so knowing that it would invite a new audience. I wanted to reach people who had never considered sitting down and listening to the violin before. I can say with certainty that I’ve accomplished that goal - because that’s what people tell me every single day! I think that’s very cool, and it’s something I’m proud of. On the flip side of the coin, there are probably people out there who look away because of the shirtlessness. To them, I say “close your eyes and just enjoy the music!”

I talk with singers often about whether they have had any kinds of hurdles  to overcome.  Have you experienced that?

In terms of technical hurdles, I have come a long way as a recording artist. As many people know, recording studio time is expensive! And, when this project first began, I couldn’t afford to get in a studio so I recorded all of my music directly into my laptop. In order to produce a better quality sound, I built a blanket fort in my living room and recorded songs underneath it. My boyfriend has home video footage of me doing this, and it’s very amusing because my bow kept hitting the blanket and messing me up! Thankfully, as my audience grew, so did my budget and I have been recording with a professional sound engineer for the past year and a half. 

Have you worked with singers?  On my graduate recital I did two Bach arias with violin obbligato with a friend--do you do that sort of thing?  

One of my early videos is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which I performed with a vocal quartet called The Sound Four. And I am now recording a song with another singer this very week! I am collaborating with an LA-based singer named Tom Goss and we are performing a duet of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”. It’s something I’m very excited about, and hope to do more of soon!

If you're performing with a symphony orchestra, do you perform shirtless?  Do you do whatever the organizer asks?  Do you insist on formal wear?

I have never performed shirtless with a symphony orchestra. I’ve been playing in orchestras for many years, but always in a suit and tails. I still think a fully shirtless orchestra would be a really fun thing, and I want to make it happen one day. 

My favorite question from Inside the Actors' Studio:  What is your favorite swear word?

Shit. It does the job without being too offensive - just like me!

Another favorite question from Inside the Actors' Studio (paraphrased):  Assuming there is a God, what do you want Him to tell you when you meet Him?

“Great abs!”

P.S.  Any of you barihunks out there whom I haven't approached for a profile--it's OK to volunteer.  I won't think it forward of you.