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Rhythm of the saints: Matthew's right on time

In February, 16-year-old Matthew Brown won Young Drummer of the Year 2013. Now he’s inspiring other young drummers. GEORGE LUKE reports ...

In February, 16-year-old Matthew Brown won Young Drummer of the Year 2013. Now he’s inspiring other young drummers. GEORGE LUKE reports

For someone who’s won a prize for making loud noises, Matthew can keep a low profile when he wants to – so much so, nobody knew he was competing for the title.

“I didn’t tell anyone I was entering,” he says. “I went just wanting to win – to do the job and not hype things up. I only told my dad about it the night before. He wasn’t too happy about that!

“The competition was quite intense. They sat the drummers down – all 10 of us – and gave us a song to play.

“They only play it to you three times; you’ve then got to go off and practise it, then come back two hours later and play it. You have to learn it in that short time – and you have to remember everything.”

Both his father Nicky and his uncle Jerry are accomplished drummers, and Matthew started showing signs of being one himself very young.

“I was banging on pots and pans and I got my first kit when I was two,” he says. “I grew up playing all kinds of music at home. My ears were open to a lot of stuff at quite a young age.”

His church – the Calvary COGIC (Church of God in Christ) in Tottenham – also played a key part.
“Quite a lot of musicians used to go there,” he recalls.

“The first time I got to play was during one service when the drummer wasn’t there and my uncle couldn’t drum because he was playing the Hammond organ. He looked at me and said: ‘Do you want to play?’ I didn’t even take two seconds; I just ran up to the drums and started playing!”

Matthew’s musical education continued when his dad was appointed minister of music at the Ruach Ministries church in Brixton.

“Ruach had a drummer called Michael Smith,” he says. “He’s a short guy, but when he drums he
sounds ‘tall’. I started learning from him.

“Then I’d go and watch my uncle play in different arenas. I saw him on Jamelia’s tour; I saw him at the O2 playing for Girls Aloud, and at Wembley with Will Young. There was always something I could listen to. I put all that together.”

Matthew’s own CV is building up nicely, and already includes work with Little Mix and backing artists at Radio 1’s Hackney Live mini-festival last summer.

He’s also taking part in drum clinics across the country, helping to teach the craft to other aspiring drummers.

I interviewed Matthew at Rising Tide in Hackney – a place dedicated to helping young people develop their creative gifts.

I found it especially encouraging to be meeting such a promising young person in this part of London where the 2011 riots started. These events led to many commentators writing off British youth as a lost cause.

Matthew has a lot to say to anyone with such a dim view of his generation.

“The best thing older people can do is invest time – and even money – in young people,” he says.

“It takes a lot for a young person to come out of their shell and capitalise on their talents. You’ve got to invest in us – and keep us in prayer as well.”

And what would he say to young people who may be a bit disillusioned or unsure about their prospects?

“I’m not even going to sugar-coat it,” he replies sharply. “I’m a Christian. I say, try Jesus!

“You can do a lot of things. There have been times when I’ve struggled with stuff – school, problems with people on the road – but all I can do is call on Jesus.

“ Also, try and stay focused. Think of where you want to be in the next five to 10 years and work towards it.”

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