Music is in the air with Matt Mandrones

Camas man entertains and teaches with his violin

Matt Mandrones practices playing his violin at home in Camas. He said there is a poster of Einstein in his studio, because the physicist was a deep thinker and he played the violin. Mandrones is a member of several orchestras in the region. He is a string orchestra teacher with the Evergreen School District and is also available to teach private violin lessons. In addition to playing at concerts, weddings and church services, Mandrones performs as a strolling violinist at restaurants and retirement/assisted living facilities. Buy this photo

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

What: “The Magic of Movie Music”

When: Thursday, Aug. 14, 6 to 8 p.m.

Instruments from Beacock Music will be available to view from 5 to 6 p.m.

Where: Esther Short Park, 605 Esther St., Vancouver

Admission: Free

Questions: Contact the symphony office at 735-7278 or thevso@VancouverS... or visit www.vancouversymp...

Matt Mandrones recalls finding something interesting in his grandmother’s guest bedroom closet when he was in the third grade.

He was snooping around when he located an odd, oblong-shaped case.

“Inside, I discovered a violin nestled in red velvet,” Mandrones remembered. “I instantly was attracted to it.

“I had seen a violin before, many times, but never touched one,” he added.

The discovery had been Mandrones’ mother’s instrument when she was a child.

For the next two years, he attempted to convince his parents to let him take lessons. They finally agreed.

Mandrones has been playing violin since the age of 10.

“I was serious about it, right out of the gate,” he said.

Mandrones, now 45, said he discovered his passions of teaching and performing in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Puget Sound, and he has a master’s degree in violin performance from the University of Washington.

Mandrones, a Camas resident, plays first violin in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

“I like playing with other professional caliber musicians,” he said. “It keeps me playing the instrument regularly and causes me to keep practicing and improve my skills.”

Mandrones has been a member of the VSO for nine years.

“Because of the professional nature of the orchestra, the competence level has drawn upon the talents of Portlanders,” he said. “The orchestra has really grown in stature and musical quality.”

Mandrones is a full-time string orchestra teacher with the Evergreen School District.

“I believe I’m making a positive difference in young people’s lives — fueling their interest to play music,” he said.

Classes include violin, cello, viola and string bass.

Playing a musical instrument teaches youth how to set goals and be self-disciplined, according to Mandrones.

“That involves perspiration and hard work,” he said.

Teamwork is also important. There are 20 to 40 students in each of the six string orchestra classes that Mandrones teaches.

Two of the classes are with elementary children, while the other four involve middle school students.

Mandrones said he is inspired to perform when he sees children giving it their all and being proud of their accomplishments.

Teaching can be challenging, since it involves adapting to continual changes.

“The kids are developing,” Mandrones said. “There is transformation going on.”

He has been the concertmaster of the Sunnyside Symphony Orchestra, of Portland, for more than two years. Mandrones is also the musical director of the Sunnyside Chamber Orchestra.

In 2002, as musical director of the Southwest Washington Chamber Orchestra, he led a concert tour through Italy and Austria.

“That was a musical highlight in my life,” Mandrones said. “I got to go to Europe with good friends and perform music for large, appreciative audiences.”

Venues included Karl’s Church, in Vienna; and The Church of St. Jacob in Florence.

In Rome, Mandrones and other orchestra members had an opportunity to see Pope John Paul II, as part of a Papal audience in Vatican City.

The orchestra also visited Sienna, Venice and Salzburg.

As members of the Vancouver String Quartet, Mandrones, Elizabeth O’Mara, Cynthia Bjore and Annie Powers, are available to perform at weddings, receptions, parties and other special events. Song choices include “Over the Rainbow,” “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Danny Boy.”

Mandrones is also available to teach private violin lessons. For more information, contact him at 261-2611 or mmandrones@aol.com or visit www.vancouverstringquartet.com.