How a Hanover teen and his centuries-old violin are making people take note

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Blazing his own teenaged trail. One may expect that Matthew Robinson’s new drivers permit ranks as his most prized possession. But for this 17-year-old it's what he carries with him in his case that is really taking him places.

Many high school students own instruments, but rarely do teens play on one that is nearly as old as the United States. Matthew’s violin was built in Germany in 1796.

“Sometime when I don’t have it with me I feel off,” said Matthew. “I feel like I’m missing something almost. It is just part of me.”

The shy senior at Atlee High School and his 222-year-old well-worn violin are inseparable.

Matthew Robinson

“Sometimes I think Thomas Jefferson did because he played violin. Maybe he played it,” said Matthew.

Rarely letting his treasure out of his sight or earshot, the violin is his constant companion.

“They probably call me the violin kid because I carry my violin everywhere,” says Matthew.

Cliff and Jennifer Robinson watched their son develop a knack for playing early on.

“He picked it up very quickly. He could read music before he could read,” said Cliff.

Matthew has been playing since he was five and hasn’t stopped. He practices three hours a day.

Matthew Robinson

“Now I have to be told to stop practicing because it’s too late at night or too early in the morning,” said Matthew.

“It is 10 o’clock at night and the kids are trying to sleep and we send him to another room with a closed door. But he is playing loud enough and we’re like. Its bedtime,” said his father.

The Violin is a Robinson family affair. All seven of Matthew’s siblings play.

“Playing on this violin you get so accustomed to it. Like playing on another violin. I picked up my brothers violin and I can’t play on it that well,” said Matthew.

“Music means a lot to Matthew,” said his mom, Jennifer Robinson.

Cliff and Jennifer Robinson

But the Robinson’s say Matthew is on another level.

“Matthew, he cares. He puts so much emotion into it. That is really special,” said Cliff.

Matthew carries a tune with musicians several years his senior like teacher, Dr. Charles Staples.

“Oh, he is very serious. You just have to look at him to see how serious he is,” said Dr. Staples. “He is primed to be a great student in the next phase of his life, no matter what he decides to do.”

Matthew’s next phase is applying to the pre-eminent music schools in the nation. He also earns high grades. He ranks 9th in his class. Math and science are his specialties.

Matthew Robinson

“He is a great kid. We’re are so proud of who he is. So proud,” says Jennifer Robinson.

But playing isn’t his only dream. He is intent on pairing music with medicine.

“Ideally, I want to be both a doctor and practicing musician,” said Matthew.

Despite his lofty goals, his proud parents say Matthew remains grounded. He spent last year in Ghana teaching children music and math.

“Just to discover their culture and see how happy the Ghanaians are as a people was amazing,” said Matthew.

Matthew is now enrolled at the Academy of Music in Richmond. Director Lynnelle Ediger says love, joy and artistry flows through her student.

“So not only does he have the talent he has the work ethic. That will hold him in great stead,” said Ediger. “Already at the age of 17 he has been developing the habits of what I call greatness.”

With his centuries-old sidekick, Matthew says anything is possible. Wherever his talents take him along his musical journey he promises to share his gift so others can take note.

“As a whole, I like playing a lot and I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” added Matthew.

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