About - Matthew Olshefski
“He plays the violin so well you’re unsure you ever want to listen to another instrument again.” — COSMOPOLITAN
It’s the question I’m always asked, and I’m here to give you the answer! If The Shirtless Violinist was a superhero, this would be his origin story. Sit back, pour yourself a glass of (red) wine, and allow me to explain.
I was born in Santa Fe, grew up in the midwest, and currently call Seattle my home. I have been playing the violin since the age of three, and I can’t remember a time without music in my life. As a teenager I became so devoted to the instrument, I would practice for up to six hours each day. But after playing in symphonies and orchestras for many years (always dressed in a suit and tails) I began to wonder if my musical ambitions would amount to anything more.
A few years ago I started noticing different classical musicians “crossing over” and posting really beautiful and creative music videos on YouTube. It sparked my imagination, and I knew instantly it was something I wanted to try myself. But where would I begin? Time passed and I held onto the dream, always saying to myself “maybe one day…”
Then I met my current boyfriend, Paul, and when I told him about my dream his face lit up! It turned out Paul’s “one day” dream was to be a filmmaker and he was eager to help me make a video. I was determined not to let “one day” become “never” for both of our dreams, so we got straight to work. At this time I was a fitness instructor and spent a lot of time in the gym - so Paul threw out a random idea:
“I think your video will get more attention if you take off your shirt!”
I laughed out loud when he suggested it! I grew up in a very conservative midwestern home, so the idea of taking my shirt off in front of anyone was hilarious. It’s just not something I ever did. But Paul was certain this would give the video an extra push, so I decided to have a little fun and play along (it was the middle of August, after all!). Well it would seem my fate was sealed because with that first video I instantly became known as The Shirtless Violinist.
There was no turning back.
Articles started pouring in from blogs not just in America, but around the world. I was stunned and thrilled to see people writing about my shirtless performance in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and even Russia! So I did what anyone would do in that situation: I made another video. And another one after that. And very quickly Paul and I were running a tiny production company right out of our home. With the help of the crowd-funding website Patreon.com, my music videos suddenly had a monthly budget. All thanks to the growing fan base who had discovered what I was doing and wanted to support it. I began recording in a professional studio, hiring cinematographers, and renting our venues.
As of August 2018 we have posted 20 music videos with a total of 2 million views.
Our creative work has been written about in Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Pop Sugar, Gay Times, Instinct Magazine, DNA, Advocate, and many more.
In the beginning, my only intention was to show people the beauty of the violin, and to do it in a fun and creative way. But as the platform grew, I realized that I wanted to do more. As an openly gay man, I wanted to represent the LGBTQ community in a unique way. Early last year we posted our first “Gay Disney Fairytale” twist on Beauty and the Beast and it became a viral video. It was written about in over 60 countries, and the reception was overwhelming. Paul and I knew we had struck a chord with our audience, and we started receiving daily messages of gratitude and support. That’s when I realized these videos could do a lot more than I originally imagined.
“Come for the abs, stay for the music.”
That’s a direct quote from one of my fans, and I have heard variations on that phrase over and over during my shirtless adventures. I think that sums up my reason for doing this: To attract a new audience to the violin.
I have received countless messages from fans telling me how one of my videos moved them to tears, warmed their hearts, and even gave them the courage to come out to their families. I can’t tell you how rewarding it feels to read letters like that.
I hope my music videos allow people to enjoy this beautiful instrument, whether they already love the violin or are discovering its special powers for the first time. I get a lot of people telling me that these videos have inspired them to start playing an instrument, and that means so much to me. I also get a lot of people telling me that I’ve inspired them to get in shape, starting eating healthy, and take care of their bodies.The fact that I am able to inspire both things - music and fitness - in one place, is a great reward.
Future plans include more Gay Disney Fairytales, more musical collaborations with up and coming LGBT talent, and an eventual tour.
My music is available on all streaming platforms, and I’ve recently released my second full album simply titled Shirtless Violinist Vol. II.
Because I’m just getting started.