Grade 10 student Matty Angus looks down at his clarinet, in a black and white portrait

In just four years, Grade 10 student Matty Angus has gone from picking up a clarinet for the first time, to winning national accolades and competing in Europe.

“I started competing the same year that I started playing,” he explained. “I’m a pretty goal-oriented person, so deadlines like competitions and auditions are great things to work towards and keep me motivated to work hard every day.”

Matty’s motivation and passion for the art have helped him succeed in his musical endeavors, while maintaining a balanced mindset and positive outlook on his remarkable journey.

Discovering a Passion

Having attended SMUS since Grade 2, Matty had the opportunity to explore new instruments while at the Junior School.

“I played viola in strings class in Grade 4, and wanted to play trumpet in Middle School," added Matty. "My mom suggested that I try the clarinet, since we already had one at home I could use from when she used to play.”

“The tone, versatility, and dynamic range of the clarinet drew me in. At first, I wasn’t so good at playing it. I kind of got tired of being so bad in band class, so I asked my mom to start practising with me. Since then, it’s been our daily routine.” 

Matty attributes his continued pursuit and success to the support of teacher, Mr. Enns.

“I made a habit of sharing clips with him and telling him about the things I was doing with music, and it was like having another mentor. Along with my mom, his words of encouragement helped me get into it even more.”

That same year, Matty decided to enter competitions for the experience.

“My first competition at the city level, I received an award for Outstanding Performance, which was something that I wasn’t expecting. The amount of improvement we saw between my first and second competition was when I realized that it’s really worth it to keep doing this.” 

Things started to fall into place, and in the last four years Matty has also attended masterclasses with prominent musicians from around the world, and been a part of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra.

A Crescendo of Growth and Success

Music competitions have been an area where Matty’s seen substantial success, including but not limited to several First Place finishes at the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival in multiple categories, First and Second Place at the provincial level, First Class Honours in 2023 at the Canada West Performing Arts Festival, and First Prize at the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals’ National Music Festival Local Stream Competition.  

Matty Angus stands inside a church with large stained glass windows while playing clarinet

Earlier this year, Matty won First Prize at the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival for the third year in a row, automatically earning him a spot at the BC Performing Arts Festival in June.

“The city level competition is really important, because it determines what your competition season looks like that year. There’s a drive to win first place so that you can go to Provincials, but also to be good enough that the judges recommend you to compete at Nationals, too. They can only send a certain amount of winners, and only if they feel you’re the right fit.”

For the third year in a row, he moved on to the BC Performing Arts Festival, and was also nominated to compete at Nationals this summer in the developing artist stream. “Last year, I didn’t even know being recommended to go to Nationals was a thing, so this year I was really hoping I could compete at that level  again, but I wasn’t expecting it because I was the youngest in the 18 and under category. It was all in the judges’ hands.”

This spring, Matty independently submitted an audition to attend the International Clarinet Assocation’s High School Solo Competition during ClarinetFest, the most eminent clarinet conference in the world.

“I just decided to enter for fun this year, so I applied by entering the first round of competition, playing the required repertoire. The first round was adjudicated by a panel of five judges.”

In April, it was announced that Matty was invited as one of just six finalists from around the world — and the only one from Canada — to participate in the competition, which takes place in Dublin, Ireland, this August.

“It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had," he remarked.

In addition to attending the competition’s conference which will host events like master classes, Matty will be competing for a chance at winning a professional clarinet, and additional funds towards the cost of lessons.

Maintaining Balance and a Positive Mindset

“It depends on the time of year, but often I practice clarinet 20 hours per week,” the talented musician shares.

This level of dedication and success can be a lot to handle at 15 years old, but it has also provided the opportunity for Matty to learn how to handle pressure to have the best outcome for himself.

Matty Angus practices clarinet while in the front passenger of his car

“For all recording sessions and performances, I am trying to stay as over-prepared as possible. I think that way, I can focus less on the technical aspects of what I’m playing, and instead just try to embody the music without over thinking.” 

Most importantly, though, he laughs that his “ritual is to eat a banana before I perform. My mom taught me that one, it just calms me down."

Like many youth, the support from parents makes a world of difference in students' ability to succeed.

“My mom sits beside me and practices with me every day, for as long as it may take. Every time I need to do a recording, she’s the one filming. She’s there every step of the way, and I really enjoy bonding and learning with her,” even if it’s during a 16-hour road trip to Fort St. John, Saskatoon, or Edmonton for a competition.

“She often talks about her experience with music, how her parents didn’t come from a music background and weren’t able to practice with her, so that’s something that she always wanted to give me, and I really appreciate that.”

Matty’s drive is intrinsic, though, sprouting from opportunity at school and support from home, and fueled by a genuine passion – for both music, and to achieve his personal goals. He hopes to pursue architectural design, specializing in the design of concert halls, that would enable him to combine both of his passions. 

“I really enjoy playing clarinet, and I love music making too. I love all the little minute details in a piece and the refining process, which takes so long, but it's so gratifying. Winning is really the icing on the cake to me, because it means being able to compete against people that are going to push me even further to be the best player that I can be.”