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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Wednesday, December 12, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Music

Concertmaster Mateusz Wolski works to bridge divides through ‘The M Show’

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 15, 2018, 3:53 p.m.

For the first “M Show,” Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski persuaded principal trombonist Ross Holcombe and trumpet player Eric Moe to participate in “snow challenges,” like seeing who could play their instrument the best after it had been buried in snow.

During the second “M Show,” Wolski pitted percussionist Rick Westrick and beatboxer Eli Dyer, a.k.a. Brotha Nature, against one another in a duel.

For the third installment of “The M Show,” Wolski is focusing his attention solely on the strings.

“I’m very excited because this is the stuff I live and breath everyday,” Wolski said.

“The M Show” will take place Friday and Saturday at the Falls Penthouse at Riverside Place.

The shows will feature selections by Antonio Vivaldi, Maurice Ravel and Niccolò Paganini, “bits and pieces of the greatest hits for violin,” plus the skits and competitions fans of “The M Show” have come to expect.

When thinking about this round of “The M Show,” Wolski wanted to take audiences on a behind-the-scenes tour, one both silly and informative, of the violin and other string instruments.

“The preparation for this ‘M Show’ took me on a wonderful journey of discovery of the craftsmanship, history of how the whole thing was developed,” he said. “Turns out there’s a tremendous amount of science and math and golden ratios in the design of the instrument itself, which I actually didn’t know.”

To give audience members a closer look at the violin, Wolski and his team rented a camera that was able to shoot close to one thousand frames a second to capture how the bridge of the violin moves, the vibration of the strings and how Wolski’s fingers move when he plays.

To take audiences inside the instrument – literally – Wolski teamed up with Jim Kytonen of Violin Works.

Together, the two took the top portion off a violin to explore the inner workings of the instrument.

“Some people may find it slightly sacrilege, but I will explain once people see it exactly what has transpired,” Wolski said. “That understanding definitely allows you to play better.”

This round of shows features 11 musicians.

Wolski also warns audiences that they can expect to learn even more about characters from previous editions of “The M Show.”

“I have some people that appeared in a previous ‘M Show’ in one or another capacity,” he said. “This ‘M Show,’ you will start to see ‘Ah, this has been planned all along.’ There is definitely a bigger conspiracy going on.”

Like previous editions of “The M Show,” this series will also feature a special guest. This time around, it’s radio host, actor and playwright Molly Allen.

Having a special guest at “The M Show” plays into Wolski’s goal of creating a late-night talk show vibe, something along the lines of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” or “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

He also hopes this special guest will bring in new audiences while also giving symphony patrons an introduction to something or someone they might not have otherwise experienced.

“It’s a way to bring different worlds together and explore things that we have in common and find humanity in the process,” he said.

Through “The M Show,” Wolski wants to show patrons that symphony musicians aren’t as stuffy and serious as they might appear on stage, while also making classical music more for accessible to those unfamiliar with the genre.

He realizes that there are likely no other symphonies doing anything similar to “The M Show,” but he has seen before how being brave enough to step outside of the classical music comfort zone can help bridge those divides.

“I feel we can cut through the divisions that quite often are perceived when you have different events,” Wolski said. “Imagine that somebody shows up in a suit to a hard rock concert … (or) somebody comes to the symphony performance with a nose ring and shredded jeans… We have certain concepts of what things should look like, but at ‘The M Show,’ you can do either and you’re not going to be out of place.”


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