Writer, Director & Producer
Matt grew up in Nottingham and began playing the trombone aged 11, after asking his brass teacher if he might learn the trumpet but being told his lips were too big for that instrument. This, of course, was a lie but his canny teacher (and a trumpet player), Gerald Douglas, had enough trumpet students already and needed another trombonist to make up the school band. Thus ultimately Matt’s career was determined by a little fib, but, not possessing the typical dishonest tendencies required to make it as a professional trumpet player, Matt has always been grateful to have ended up on the finest instrument of them all: the trombone.
Matt benefitted from Gerald’s brilliant tuition for several years before moving to the equally canny specialist trombone teacher, Pete Lacey, for more advanced studies, alongside joining the Nottingham Youth Orchestra with the esteemed Doug Wilkie as brass coach (possibly the canniest of them all). The expert guidance of these three chaps, along with the incredible musical atmosphere provided at the time by Nottingham High School and the Nottingham Youth Orchestra (including tours to Venice, Barcelona, Cyprus, New York, Boston, Toronto and the Edinburgh Festival), provided Matt with a solid musical foundation in life which is sadly unavailable to many young people in the UK today; something that has to change. It also demonstrated to Matt the kind of life that a working musician might expect: performing the most profound intellectual and emotional music around the globe, whilst getting as drunk as possible in whatever bar you might end up afterwards.
So after a minor detour to study a BSc in Mathematics at King’s College London (graduating in 2000), Matt went on to the Royal Academy of Music for a PGDip in Performance. (Whilst doing his maths degree he had been living with an old schoolfriend who was at RAM and seemed to be having a lot more fun than Matt was, playing concerts and going to parties, rather than sitting alone in his bedroom doing equations.) Once at music college, Matt enjoyed world class tuition from the likes of Denis Wick, Dudley Bright, Sue Addison, John Wallace and James Watson, but it was Denis in particular, who spent at least as much time discussing business ideas with Matt as he did about telling him how to play the trombone, who perhaps planted the seed for founding his own publishing company: The Opus Pocus.
However Matt first wanted to pursue a career in performance and, after graduating from RAM in 2002, he began freelancing on the London scene with many orchestras, big bands and pop bands, the highlights of which included working with Moscow City Ballet, Philharmonia of the Nations, Klangforum Wein, Fine Arts Brass, Welsh National Opera, NYJO, The Matthew Herbert Big Band, The Bootleg Beatles and pop band Alfie, and was appointed Principal Trombone of the English Symphony Orchestra; a position he held from 2004-2012. Matt also taught peripatetic brass students, from beginner to post-grade eight, for Haringey Music Service, Richmond Music Trust and Hounslow Music Service alongside leading hundreds of music workshops in primary schools around the UK for Education Group Ltd.
From 2002-2007, Matt volunteered as Treasurer for the British Trombone Society, where - aside from looking after all the treasure - he helped relaunch its magazine and website, as well as restructuring its management and membership model so that this fine society could continue to promote the trombone to the people of Britain and friends from around the world (especially the younger generation) up to the present day.
Around this time Matt also began playing on West End shows and tours, which eventually became his main career. He has worked professionally on pretty much every show that has a trombone on it, the A-Z of which includes: Annie, Annie Get Your Gun, Book of Mormon, Calamity Jane, Carousel, Chicago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, Happy Days, In The Heights, Kiss Me Kate, La Cage aux Folles, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, Motown The Musical, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Oliver!, Scottsboro Boys, Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd, The Sound of Music, The Witches of Eastwick, Thoroughly Modern Millie, West Side Story, White Christmas, Wicked and Wizard of Oz. Matt is also pretty sure he holds the world record for ‘playing the show Hairspray the most times’ having done five tours of it and thus playing that show at least a thousand times. Other highlights from his touring days included playing Chicago in Seoul, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Singapore and the The Sound of Music in Beirut.
From his very first experience of attending music college, Matt was struck by how concerned most classical musicians are that this incredible sound-world is not reaching enough of the population, especially the younger population, and especially the younger population from underprivileged backgrounds. Witnessing how this issue continued without major remedy throughout his playing and teaching career, and inspired by the likes of Disney’s Fantasia and fun, subversive, educational series like Horrible Histories, Matt wanted to develop something similar to help children discover the magic of classical music and struck upon the idea of transforming the great symphonic works into funny, action-packed, multimedia stories so that kids absorb the music simply by following the story: it’s education by stealth.
So he founded The Opus Pocus, firstly by approaching an old schoolfriend Sam Morris, a multi-talented actor, musician and comedian, who created the voices of Grandma Dingley and the Evil Genie for 1001 Arabian Nights, and Jess Murphy, who is both a professional musician (a violinist friend from RAM) and professional actor (appearing in Warhorse at the National Theatre and the film version of Sweeney Todd amongst other productions) who created the voice of Princess Scheherazade, before bringing on board Greg Arrowsmith (Musical Director for Panto at the Palladium and the best MD in the business) to conduct the orchestra (over 120 professional musician friends who all agreed to record for royalties rather than an upfront fee to help Matt get the project off the ground) and finally Nigel Garton (a friendly spy from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tour) to complete the other voices. He also approached Brian Blessed (“The loudest human being I’ve ever had in my studio” - Stakeout Studios sound engineer) and Rory Bremner (who’s impressions of Brian Blessed were nearly as loud) and was delighted they were both up for being involved, and so much fun to work with.
Alongside these legends, Matt approached some incredible illustrators (Faye Simms, Miker Rivero of ArtMiker Studios, Matteo Pincelli) and some fantastic designers and web developers (Mandy Norman, Dynamic Sales Solutions and James Topp - who also played Horn on the orchestral recording) and sound/mastering engineers Prozone Music, Stakeout Studios and Andrew Smillie (our man at the BBC), and with a successful Kickstarter campaign and through winning the national Intuit StartUp Britain competition, Matt was finally about to fully launch The Opus Pocus with a series of concerts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales …when Covid happened.
So, during the pandemic, with theatres closed, Matt needed another job for a while and began working for pre-eminent covid-testing company, Circular1 Health, processing samples, managing admin & unpacking teams, before moving to business development and setting up sponsorships with the Halle orchestra in Manchester and the Philharmonia orchestra in London, earning him a mention in Private Eye (fortunately a positive one, unlike the usual reprobates who end up being featured in it).
Post-pandemic, Matt did another tour of Hairspray (~1,200 shows and counting) and in October 2022 finally launched The Opus Pocus with a series of concerts at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff and Brangwyn Hall in Swansea with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Several thousand primary school-aged children watched these concerts both live and via livestream, which Matt and his team would humbly suggest is the first time such a large number of children have sat and listened to an entire symphony orchestra play a full symphony live on stage, as children’s classical concerts usually just feature a few different classical music pieces by a few different composers rather than giving children the "full symphony experience".
If you like what Matt and The Opus Pocus are doing then please visit our shop page, subscribe to our first animation, spread the word via social media - and in real life - and join us in bringing the magic of classical music to thousands of children worldwide. Swan Lake, with music by Tchaikovsky, and The Mountain King, with music by Grieg, are coming next… And please note, our activity pack will always be free, meaning children from any background can always discover the magic of classical music - and of The Opus Pocus - at school or at home.
Follow Matt Parry's productions on twitter: @mattparryprod