Mathew Eichorn is a musician and teacher with a penchant for Jazz. He contributes his considerable talents to local theatre and the Town Band.
When did you first start playing music, and what made you decide to turn it into a career?
I actually started playing when I was really little. I had piano lessons and performed in Eisteddfods and did all my music exams.
Guitar started pretty early too; my grandma bought me a Classical guitar when I was about 8-years-old. Piano and guitar went hand in hand for a long time. Then as a teenager, I discovered Rock music, and I decided I wanted to play the drums as well!
But when I was about 14, I started going to the Jazz club. It was just so much fun and such a different environment from the study and the competitions. I started my own little group when I was 14 (see photo above) and at high school in Toowoomba, and we played around all the cafés, at the race course and with different organisations – and it just grew from there. I was also doing a lot of work with the community Jazz band, and we got to play with some really high profile acts as part of development programs. That’s when I first got into the studio.
I had a bit of a taste of everything, and realised I could turn this into a career. I had to sit down and decide what type of music I wanted to do, because you just can’t do it all! So I decided that Jazz was where it started and that’s where I’d put most of my focus.
I studied an Advance Diploma of Jazz, a very practical, performance-based course through a private academy – they call themselves the Music Institute now. I majored in percussion.
Obviously you’re a versatile musician and enjoy many different types of music. If you had to pick a favourite instrument and a favourite musician, what / who would you choose?
Still piano – it really is. Favourite music would be Jazz, and specifically Herbie Hancock – he’s a Jazz pianist. He’s just been in Australia recently, actually. He crosses a lot of genres, and he’s really been my idol for a long time. He’s got fantastic piano technique, but then he just lets it all go and he’s got a great sense of music. And he’s totally open with genres – he’s done albums with Pop stars and Rock guitarists and a bit of everything.
He’s more interested in what everyone else is doing and tries to work with them, which is an attitude I’ve tried to take on board.
When did you first start teaching music?
Straight out of high school. With all the Eisteddfods and exams I’d done, I was at a high enough level that I didn’t need the tertiary study to begin teaching properly. I’ve been teaching ever since. I teach all three instruments: piano, guitar and drums, and vocal coaching as well.
How did you actually become involved with Players Theatre?
When I first moved to Port Macquarie, driving from the bus terminal to the place I was staying, Players was the first landmark I actually noticed. I’d been in town 5 minutes, and my first thought was, “I’ve got to get involved in that place!”
And it was in a very roundabout way that I got roped into The Boy from Oz. They needed a guitarist, and a friend of a friend knew a friend, and word got around. That’s how I fell into it – and I haven’t left! I did all of their productions last year and all three this year. I’ve always been in the orchestra – guitar player for Boy from Oz, percussion player for Kiss me Kate, and I’ve just been Musical Director for Sweeney Todd. I’ll be back playing guitar for the upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors and back on the piano again for Nunsense, at the end of the year.
What did you take away from the experience of being Musical Director of Sweeney Todd?
When I first signed on, another man had the role, but had to leave due to illness. While he was on board, it was certainly a lot less stress. But once I took on the job – it took over my life (laughs)! It’s been such a great experience though, to work with a lot of first timers – first time singers, first time director for musicals, and help them build their confidence. We all sank into our roles really well over time. There are always ups and downs, and it’s been hilarious at times, but the theatre is always so supportive of everybody. Every aspect of the theatre – from the Box Office, to the sound and lighting guys, to the backstage … they just rolled with every issue that came up, and the whole team really worked together well.
How was Sweeney Todd received?
Really well! It surprised a lot of people. We were very worried about the content, but it’s not really the story presented in the movie that everybody’s mostly familiar with. It is very much the story of a father who’s looking for his daughter again after being forcibly removed from his family. It’s heart-warming and moving. We’re very happy that it’s been so well received. It’s a very difficult piece – it’s renowned as one of the most difficult musicals, so for Players to take the risk was just fantastic.
Apart from continuing with Players Theatre, what else are you hoping to achieve this year?
At the moment I’m hoping to do more performing and more teaching. I work at the Academy of Music, which is a fantastic place.
I’d love to see more Jazz education here. A lot of students go to high school here, then move away to Sydney or Brisbane to continue their studies. It can be quite a shock for them to leave the music system in the high schools and attend uni in the larger cities, so it would be great to give them a bit of a taste of what they’ll see in that city environment.
I’ve been playing a lot with a new group called Blue Hypothesis, which is an offshoot of the Town Band. It’s a big band, so it plays swing era / big band music. This is another really exciting project. I’m also hoping to do some of my own projects this year, and I’d like to support the Westport Jazz Club more.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
If anyone’s interested in guitar, keyboard, drum or vocal coaching lessons, feel free to email Mathew: firstname.lastname@example.org