Megan Matthew is an SDYS alumni (1995-2002), parent, and now serves on the SDYS Board of Directors. She currently co-leads the Alumni sub-committee of the Board. Her father, Dennis Lavine, is a former Board member (1997-2008) and saw SDYS grow through a transition period during his tenure. He is now retired and hopes to learn to play the cello and continue to accompany his granddaughter, Grace, to her SDYS ChIMES classes when they resume in-person.
Megan, what did you do following your time at SDYS?
Megan: I attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at first majored in violin performance. After a year, I decided to pursue journalism and mass communication, with a focus on public relations and a minor in music. I love telling stories and shaping how a message is communicated. However, music is essential to who I am, so I combined my passion with my profession and now volunteer my PR prowess for the arts and nonprofit work. After returning to San Diego, I played with the University of San Diego Community Orchestra for a few years and dusted off the ole violin when I traveled to China with other SDYS alums on the 2015 tour. What an adventure!
What are you up to now?
Megan: I help tell the story of the Family Houses at UC San Diego Health, a small nonprofit that helps families with a loved one in long-term or critical care at UC San Diego Health. The families that I meet and the stories they tell are inspiring and remind me to be grateful for every moment. I also run around after my four-year-old, Grace, and try to keep up! I’m proud to say that I am now a San Diego Youth Symphony parent since attending a ChIMES session with my daughter. She sometimes tries to use her toy ukulele as a violin which makes her mom proud. I look forward to enjoying music with her, as well as my experiences at San Diego Youth Symphony, as she grows up.
How has music influenced you?
Megan: Music has opened doors for me. From introducing me to long-ago composers in distant lands, to giving me my first job… I am where I am today because of music. It has been a thread that connects all parts of my life. My childhood was filled with New World Symphony playing loudly while we had pancakes on a Sunday morning. I single-handedly credit the Bruch violin concerto with getting me into college. When I got married, I walked down the aisle to Saint-Saëns’ The Swan, and waltzed with my dad to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. I remember visiting my sister in Prague whenever The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana is played. When my daughter was born, Chopin was playing in the background. It’s amazing to me the power that music has in transporting me back to another time in my life. Music defines me and has defined my life. It has given me direction. It has introduced me to so many new and wonderful friends. And it took me places I never expected.
How has your experience on the board been so far?
Megan: It’s been an eye-opening experience, getting to know the organization again because it feels new. [There are so many] different types of music that I never thought the symphony was involved with, like jazz or conducting or music theory.
Dennis, what was your experience like?
Dennis: [I served] from 1997-2008. Back then, the organization was smaller than it is now and members of the Board were primarily, if not exclusively, parents. During that time, I saw a lot of transition. It went from this parent Board to a more functioning Board in the traditional sense of not-for-profit. More people in the community started coming on Board, and Jeff Edmons came on as the Artistic Director. I think about the same time Angels’ Angels was organized. It was a very interesting time and it was exciting to be part of that. I was also thrilled to be a stand-in volunteer when they needed someone to play the jingle bells at a holiday concert.
Megan, as an alum how do you bring a different perspective to the board?
Megan: It is definitely a different perspective, and one that I am grateful for. The organization has grown and morphed into this bigger idea. I don’t know if there are many other Board members that played music as a child or have seen the organization grow throughout the years. And it’s interesting being part of an organization that’s 75 years old! This organization is near and dear to my heart and it feels like a family member almost. I feel like it’s just always been part of my life.
What are your goals for the Alumni Association?
Megan: I think a lot of alums are a little intimidated to join the Alumni Association because they think, “Oh my gosh, I don’t practice anymore”. I want to share the message that it’s okay. Music can still be a part of your life even if you’re not a professional musician or practicing all the time. I don’t want this Association to be intimidating. It’s not meant to be, it’s just supposed to be fun, a place for alumni to come back together, reconnect with old friends and share memories.
Dennis: There’s a lot of people and most students [that] don’t go on to be professional musicians, but what the organization does, it provides a framework for learning some really good lessons that you picked up through your music. Music can still be part of your life whether it’s listening to music or playing music. You know, all those things are really benefits to being a participant in SDYS.
What role does music play in your life now?
Megan: With [my daughter] Grace, I’m really trying share my love of music with her. [We’ve been] getting her involved with ChIMES and other classes like that and playing music here in the house a lot. Mostly, listening to music and being part of the board is what I’m able to give right now, but I do always dream! One day I want to go back and take lessons and be part of a community orchestra again. Because, now as an adult looking back, I can see that even though solo practice (while critical) wasn’t always my favorite activity, I always looked forward to going to rehearsal at SDYS to meet friends and connect through playing together. I want to be part of something like that again, at some point!
Dennis: In junior high, I played the cello for a while, and then when Megan started playing violin, I thought that I would go back to playing cello and we could play duets. I retired as of the first of the year  and one of my goals was to go back [and learn to play].
Do you have a special memory enjoying music as a family?
Dennis: I’ve always enjoyed listening to Megan play. For my 70th birthday [last year], she hired a bluegrass band to play. All of my closest friends and family were there, alongside delicious Southern-style cooking, and Megan played the fiddle with the bluegrass band. Oh, it was great!
Megan: It was super fascinating for me to play with that bluegrass band. I play one or two fiddling songs, but I still have to read music. When I talked to these bluegrass guys, [I learned] they don’t read music! They kind of riff, it’s like jazz almost. I made a few mistakes, but it was such a blast. My daughter got a big kick out of seeing her mom up there with the band!
How does it feel to see your daughter start her journey with music?
Megan: You know, I want to be careful because [the violin is] something that I chose for me. In third grade, they introduced the violin to us at school. And I’ll never forget, I went up to my Mom and I said “I want to take violin lessons”. I pushed for it. With Grace, I want to show her what I think is really cool, but at the same time I want to respect her as an individual. If she wants to take up surfing or something like that, which I have no idea how to do, I want to support her in that too. In my role as a parent, I just want to expose her to all of my joys and things that I’m passionate about. If she wants to pursue it, then I’ll support that. And if not, that’s okay.
Dennis: I am very proud of Megan and all that she’s achieved. [She’s] staying involved with youth symphony, realizing how important it was to her and what she’s gained from that organization. But more importantly, she recognizes the importance of giving back and staying involved. I’m very proud.