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Talented teen raises cheers at Southwest recital

March 26, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

A young pianist took the Southwest Performing Arts Theatre stage Wednesday morning amid the cheers of 500 high school students.

It's not every day that a young piano prodigy, clad comfortably in jeans and tennis shoes, performs on this stage.

As he began to play, a silence fell upon the house as the young pianist showed command of his instrument with ease and musicality, exhibiting a talent fast approaching world-class virtuosity.

Breezing through Bach and taking time to explain counterpoint to his audience, his rapport with the potentially raucous crowd was amazing. This type of "show and tell" recital is hardly an easy feat by most performance standards.

Matt Bowers, 17, of Niland isn't like most teen-agers his age. True, there's the love of video games and techno music, but few teens are considered musical prodigies.

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He possesses the type of talent aspiring musicians only dream of, although he admits it's a struggle to keep a clear head over the responsibilities of owning such talent.

Not intimidated by the vulnerability of performing, Matt said playing is spiritual for him.

"I'm presenting a raw copy of myself when I play," Matt said. "When I sit down to play a piece, I have the notes memorized, but I feel something different every time. … I never play it the same way twice."

It's hard to believe it was only five years ago that Matt first touched an ivory key, on an old, out-of-tune piano salvaged from a neighbor's garage.

His father had remembered a portion of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and taught it to him.

Self-study soon followed and was the catalyst for a whirlwind journey of a musical career.

After studying with several piano teachers, Matt was ready to move from home to mature musically.

Studies have included Idyllwild Arts Camp in California and Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, where he recently won the concerto competition and performed "Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto" with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Yung Ho Pak.

Since last fall, Bowers has attended Interlochen Arts Academy to hone his craft in preparation of further study at the Juilliard School in New York City.

Like most musical prodigies, he has been met with resistance from teachers while trying to explore his own artistry and keeping his personal integrity in his music. For those reasons, he said he's not enjoying Interlochen as much as he might have expected but looks forward to attending Juilliard in the fall.

He's completed a set of auditions to the prestigious school and is weeks away from word of acceptance.

With a successful future in classical music nearly cemented if he attends Juilliard, Matt concedes his devotion to music is not for the accolades or fame but out of necessity.

"I have to play and it's not for any material thing," he said.

As a classical musician in a world where interest in the genre is fast decaying, Matt said he has hope in his generation.

"I think they would like it a lot more than they think they do; it's totally misconstrued," Matt said.

As for the future, Matt has hopes of composing and perhaps conducting, yet still feels some uncertainty.

"I can't imagine six months from now," Matt said. "My life has been twists and turns. It's just been a serpent."

Matt has returned home for spring break until next month and has given two recitals locally since returning. He can next be seen in performance at the Kiwanis Capers on April 7 and 8 in the Southwest theatre.

Donations to the Matt Bowers' Scholarship Fund can be made through Valley Independent Bank, 1488 W. Main St., El Centro. For more information call Linda Brown at 370-0885 or Bill Wright at 414-4944.

Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

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