Entertainment » Music

Meet Matthew Olshefski: He Plays the Violin (Shirtless)

by Steve Duffy
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 5, 2019

Matthew Olshefski can't remember a time when there wasn't music in his life. The Seattle native began playing the violin at the age of three, then as a teenager was so devoted to his instrument that he practiced up to six hours a day. But once he established his career as a professional violinist, both in performance and teaching, he wondered if there couldn't be more.

He found his answer when he played with his shirt off. That came from a suggestion from his boyfriend Paul Castle, a budding filmmaker who collaborated on Matthew's first video. That Matthew was a fitness instructor led Paul to throw out a random idea: "I think your video will get more attention if you take off your shirt!"

He hasn't looked back... or put on a shirt.

Matthew's numerous videos can be found on his YouTube channel. With them he combines his love of music, his classical training and his physical attributes into a unique and highly entertaining body (no pun intended) of work.

EDGE spoke to Matthew recently about his passions for playing the violin and for fitness.

Hated bowties

EDGE: When did you start playing the violin?

Matthew Olshefski: I started playing around the age of 3. I remember seeing someone playing the violin and wanted to learn. After bugging my parents about it, they found a teacher for me. I have been playing for so long, I really don't have a memory without a violin in my hand.

EDGE: How did you become the Shirtless Violinist?

Matthew Olshefski: At the age 18 years old, I started my first orchestra job. I always had to be dressed in a tux or tails and I hate bowties and ties. I hate the feeling they give me around my neck. I love playing the violin so much I never thought of doing anything else with my life. Like most people, I loved watching music videos. I love the art of them. While on our second or third date, I told Paul I wanted to make music videos and since his dream was to be a director, we combined our dreams. When we were filming our first one, he told me to take my shirt off. He figured we would get more views. After we posted it, the video received over 20,000 views. I then found out that Pride.com had written an article on us. I was so excited that we just kept making them.

EDGE: Have you faced any challenges as a gay musician trying to break into the music industry?

Matthew Olshefski: Yes, we have. I wanted to perform a Disney song, but with a gay twist. Our first one was "Beauty and the Beast" and that garnered a lot of attention. Paul played a male version of Belle. I wanted to represent our community in stories that we all knew and loved. After that, I realized that we had a voice and that there is an appetite for this. We also got some negative attention and started getting some kickback on YouTube. I noticed one of our thumbnails were gone. I thought it was a bug in the system. We then did "Perfect," (the Ed Sherran song which he collaborated with out performer Tom Goss on) with 16,000 views an hour and growing. Then, all of a sudden, the views stopped, and the thumbnail was gone. I emailed YouTube to let them know. They said that if someone flags it, we remove it or if we deem it inappropriate, we remove it. It was a gut punched to us and a small setback. Someone out there was working real hard to stop us, but we are not giving up.

Came for the abs...

EDGE: Since you perform shirtless, I am guessing cheat days are very rare?

Matthew Olshefski: It is definitely the hardest part about doing this. I love staying fit, but I also love a cheat day. Although, they are very limited and when I do cheat I usually eat bagels.

EDGE: What is most enjoyable for you by placing a gay twist on movies in your videos?

Matthew Olshefski: The fact that I get to create this music with my boyfriend and making these videos together are a record of our love towards each other. They really do depict our relationship. The reaction that we have received has been amazing, especially from people in countries where it is illegal to be gay. I can't believe the wide-reaching impact that our videos have had. My hope is that they continue to bring hope and inspire others.

EDGE: I am guessing the reaction to you performing shirtless has been great.

Matthew Olshefski: It is. I do realize it's a gimmick, but I used it to get noticed. Being shirtless is just a way to promote classical music. When you think of classical music, you don't think sexy, so why not make it sexy? I love putting a fun and sexy twist on it. The feedback that I have heard from listeners is that "I came for the abs but stayed for the music."

Sexy and enjoyable

EDGE: Have you received any feedback from the classical music community?

Matthew Olshefski: The classical music community has been harsh. They don't like what I do. They don't like that I am shirtless. The Violin channel) stopped posting my music videos. All I am trying to do is make violin music more sexy and enjoyable.

EDGE: Best experience so far as the Shirtless Violinist?

Matthew Olshefski: Musically, the highlight for me was playing in Birmingham, UK. I filmed in their Symphony Hall. It was a dream come true. They played the video in their Pride parade. I was thrilled to be a part of it all.

EDGE: What's next for the Shirtless Violinist?

Matthew Olshefski: Currently, I am filming a bunch of music videos and preparing for my first live concert. My greatest joy comes from performing live. I am hoping to also produce more CDs. With fingers crossed, 2019 will be a busy year for me.

For more information on Matthew Olshefski, visit his website or his YouTube channel.

Watch Matthew Olshefski and Paul Goss perform "Perfect."

Watch Matthew Olshefski perform "Part of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid." (The gay version):


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