Matthew Smith became Britain’s youngest ever orchestra conductor, leading a 75-strong orchestra through a faultless rendition of the overture to Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus making him the youngest conductor ever to take to a professional stage in Britain.
The primary school pupil conducted the nine-minute piece entirely from memory, leaving a 1,300-strong audience at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham in raptures last night. As the orchestra played, Matthew’s mother Beverlyn Riley beamed from the dress circle as she took pictures on a camera phone. Following the performance the orchestra broke out in spontaneous applause, while the rookie conductor said simply: ‘It felt good.’
The schoolboy’s talent was unlocked four years ago when he saw two violinists performing at the Pentecostal church he attends with his mother and told her that he wanted to be ‘just like them’. Mrs Riley, 40, a catering assistant at Nottingham High School, approached the £4,227-a-term school’s senior string teacher Derek Williams – who set Matthew up with a ‘dreadful old violin’ he found in a cupboard.
Matthew instinctively placed his fingers in the correct place on the instrument and virtually performed a scale in his first lesson. Mr Williams said that Matthew had “music coming out of his pores”. The schoolboy lives in a terrace home with his mother and brother Daniel, 16, on the outskirts of Nottingham.
Mrs Riley, who is divorced from Matthew’s father Cordova Smith and has since remarried, said that she had no idea where Matthew gets his musical ability from, although his father does play the saxophone.
She added: “I’m so proud of what Matthew has done.”