by Jonathan Weaver
A local musician hopes enrolling in a new college 2,000 miles away this semester will get him on the path to musical success.
Matt Janovsky, a 2012 Kittanning Senior High graduate who is best known for his hip-hop violin performances during Arts on the Allegheny summer concerts and classical renditions during weddings regionally, starts classes next week at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah where he hopes to achieve two Bachelor’s degrees – in Media Composition and Music Technology during the next three years.
The past three semesters, the East Franklin Township resident has studied Music Performance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but will take his antique fiddle eight states west to learn in the new Commercial Music program.
“I talked to a few people and determined after I while that IUP would be a stepping stone. At the time, I didn’t know what else I wanted to do besides performance because that’s all I knew how to do,” Matt said. “I loved it, but deep down I knew I wanted to expand my horizons just a bit more.”
Even though at the age of 13 he told his parents he wanted to pursue a career in music, Matt’s collegiate career actually started in August 2012 studying pre-medicine at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
But not for long.
“I didn’t like the atmosphere, and I did not like the classes I was in,” Matt said. “If you’re not doing what you love, you’re obviously not going to like your classes. I was taking chemistry, biology, and I spent about every day just hating doing my work. I did take a music supplementary class, (but) I couldn’t even focus on music – my grade in music was horrible because I was putting all my time into chemistry and biology. I couldn’t focus on what I liked because I had to do well in my major classes.”
A compilation of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” performed by musical favorite “The Piano Guys” that winter ‘spoke to’ and led Matt to tears, and he decided to withdraw.
“I feel like it was kind-of tailored to me that I had to see it,” Matt said. “I worked with my academic advisor to get me out of there as fast as I could, and transferred to IUP the next semester.”
Matt began as a Music Performance major at IUP in January 2013.
Matt’s musical story could also have gone a different direction, as he originally wanted to play the saxophone during third grade at West Hills Primary.
“I wanted to play the violin originally because I went to the symphony (with his parents) and I always saw how the violins had the cool parts and played pretty-awesome melodies,” Matt said. “Then, I heard Charlie Daniels play “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the radio and said ‘I want to learn that song some day.’
Matt rented the instrument from May’s Music Shoppe in Butler before finding his latest violin at a local antique store in downtown Kittanning. He no longer plays the original due to at least a half-dozen autographs in black magic marker near the strings – including that of “America’s Got Talent” finalist and friend Lindsay Stirling, who Matt credits for saving him a few years ago from becoming ‘burnt out’ from classical music.
Matt met the California native Stirling during her first tour in Pittsburgh in October 2012 and saw her again in June. He is also friends with the artist on Facebook.
“That kind-of reignited my passion for playing. I wanted to perform in front of people,” Matt said. “That really shaped me into what I am today.
“I can play all her songs – I learned them by ear,” Matt said.
The past two summers, Matt was invited to attend the week-long Lyceum Music Festival in Midway, Utah –where 33 violinists from around the world in a 100-member orchestra simulate what a professional orchestra goes through before a major performance. This year’s festival was the last week of July – coinciding with the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival.
“It was an amazing experience -I never thought in a million years I would play with “The Piano Guys” on stage,” Matt said.
Matt also thanks the two nationally-known bands for teaching him to give back to the community. Twice, Matt has performed for patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, at Concordia Lutheran Ministries in Cabot (Butler County) and during Christmas Mass at St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Kittanning.
“It’s not about if I get paid – it’s about if I can make someone’s day that much better,” Matt said. “To bring happiness to someone like that means the world to me.”
Until he was 10, Matt took lessons from Elizabeth Cramer –who only lives a few streets away in East Franklin Township. Then he took classes from an Indiana University of Pennsylvania student
Matt will also audition with the Salt Lake Pops Studio Orchestra – whose director Nathaniel Drew encouraged Matt to attend Utah Valley.