Who or what inspired you to take up the guitar and make a career in music?
I had collected music since a very young child, but my life changing moment was hearing the rock guitarist Randy Rhoads. He was Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist for his first two solo albums before his untimely death – Randy’s playing inspired me to go out and buy a guitar; he fused classical music with other styles such as blues and jazz into a unique heavy rock style. So I taught myself for a while and then began taking classical guitar and piano lessons before going to study guitar at the Guildhall School of Music. I became obsessed with classical music, I collected first everything I could find of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and then more modern classical music. I taught myself improvising and composition whilst I studied the guitar. I didn’t receive any formal orchestration and composition training until I became a private student of Baz Elmes and then when I studied under Dr Stephen Goss as a post-graduate at the University of Surrey,
Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?
As a composer J.S. Bach, John Barry, Leo Brouwer, Benjamin Britten have all been very influential on my writing style. However, in my thinking and approach to playing, there are people from various non-musical disciplines that have given me great inspiration. A lot of people are surprised to find out what a fan I am of people like the cyclist Victoria Pendleton and the footballer Jermain Defoe. Their outlook, their determination, and battles, on and off the track/football pitch, have inspired me greatly.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As a mainly classical recitalist, the challenge is one many of us soloists face – and to put it bluntly it is attendance and generating a buzz about classical music. The music I perform is mainly contemporary with occasional programming of Bach or maybe Dowland. I use social networking and the internet to publicise things. I think for classical music to survive it really does have to move with the internet age.
Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my America Suite for classical guitar. It has brought a lot of good fortune and also cemented my friendship with the talented guitarist Jonathan Prag who performed the piece at the Edinburgh festival earlier this year.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
Now that is a difficult one, because I have a very strict rule to only work with people I really trust and also to only perform somewhere that is exciting and has a warmth, so everywhere I tend to perform, I am very fond of. Having said that and if pushed I would say it is The Frax Foundation art gallery in Albir, Spain. The acoustics are great, the art work is fantastic – and the audience always are made of people that enjoy live classical music.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I do enjoy opening a concert with Manuel de Falla’s Dance Of The Miller. That first chord really kicks people up the backside. The Bach Lute Suites are immensely difficult, but I do love them very much, especially BWV 997. To listen to, I never ever tire of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording is my favourite.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I love a lot of what I think of as the musical mavericks, people like Glenn Gould, gypsy jazz guitarist Jimmy Rosenberg, and as mentioned previously, Randy Rhoads. All those guys broke out of what was the done thing and innovated and delivered something fresh and exciting to people who expected something different. They all had incredible technical facility but never once let that come before the music, that is so special and rare in a musician of any style.
It is difficult because there are things I like in almost everyone’s playing that I will go away and think, ‘well I wouldn’t have done that bit that way, but I did like the way they approached that section.’ There is ALWAYS something positive in every performance.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Probably The New Music Series for young composers’ concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. I performed a recital of original pieces and it was first recital in St Martin’s. It was at the time the biggest thing I had done and I was so pleased, I thought if nothing ever happens again even, I have performed here, nothing can take that away.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think to stay single minded and remember if you ever meet someone who says something cannot be done, that it is their opinion and it most likely can be done. People, have a habit of, if they can’t do something themselves, to discourage others. So my advice, even at 38 years of age (when I should be starting to become older and cynical), is to follow your heart, have fun and do your own thing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am writing new music for the German soprano Susanna Risch and the English guitarist Jonathan Prag. At the time of writing I am in the final mixing stage of my latest classical guitar album ‘Made In England’ an album of music by Dowland, Britten and also for the first time on a recording, my America Suite.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
This is an easy one – being in my home with my wife. We have thousands of DVDS, a lot of sheet music and my music room is my sanctuary, recording for hours and hours on my own is bliss. Add pizza breaks and then the promise of red wine and some alien documentaries at the end and I am a happy man!
Matthew Sear (b.1975) is a London-born guitarist, pianist and composer. He began teaching himself the guitar and piano aged thirteen (while also composing his first pieces), before commencing private instruction in both instruments.
At 1993, aged eighteen, Matthew was awarded an unconditional place to study classical guitar at the Guildhall School Of Music and Drama in London, where he stayed until 1996, leaving the conservatoire to write for the psychedelic rock band ‘Collusion’.
Through the 1990‘s he worked as a street musician and cafe guitarist, while studying composition under Baz Elmes and guitar with Martin Vishnick. The study culminated in Licentiates from the Royal Schools of Music and RGT, and a place on the University of Surrey’s Master’s Degree programme, in classical performance.
Matthew gave his classical guitar debut in 2006, performing on Valentines Day at St Paul’s church, Covent Garden, London. In addition to the warm reception from St Paul’s, his performance also received a glowing endorsement from Grammy nominee Antonio Forcione and also BBC Radio’s Jonathan Witchell – who later enthused on his show…
“…Vibrance, energy and the ability to really communicate through the guitar. Fantastic live music: A performer in complete command…”
Since then, Matthew has performed as a classical soloist in some of Britain’s most famous concert venues; including St James’ Piccadilly, St Martin In The Fields and St John’s Smith Square.
In addition to performances in his native country, he has given recitals throughout North America and Europe; performing across France, Sweden and Spain – and in 2010, under the mentorship of Carlos Bonell, was awarded a Fellowship from the London College Of Music, the college’s highest award.
His expressive playing style continues to receive praise from audiences and the media alike. The ‘Costa Blanca News’ (Spain) remarking after a 2012 recital…
“…A young virtuoso, whose playing was like a colourful waterfall..”
“America by Matthew Sear, created an an atmosphere containing both the bustling New York Metropolis and hints of Southern Bluegrass. The result was very characterful.”
Melinda Hughes, The 2013 Edinburgh Festival – Broadwaybaby.Com
Matthew’s work as a composer includes music for solo instruments and ensembles – and his pieces have been performed on a variety of indie and mainstream stations: including BBC and SW1 Radio. In addition to radio airplay, his pieces have been performed at St Martin-in-the-Fields ‘New Music Series’ for young composers, and most recently the Edinburgh Festival. Currently Matthew is honouring commissions from award-winning soprano Susanna Risch, guitarist Jonathan Prag and screen writer Edward Kelly.
Matthew lives happily with his wife Suzanne in south-east London, a musician in her own right. In addition to classical and world music, they share a passion for English football, cinema, String Theory and autism. They also perform (and record) with their friend, the string player Alison Jones in the Gypsy Jazz Trio ‘String Theory’.
Matthew Sear’s website
Music samples (iTunes)