An interview with the Matrix Duo

Amid the clamor of downtown Vancouver and the hectic rush of a film crew on July 28, a soothing classical performance by two UBC music students juxtaposed the rush. Third-grade pianist Mina McKenzie and violinist Jack Campbell perform together as the Matrix Duo. They performed a public concert in Robson Square as part of UBC Connects, an initiative to break down barriers between the university and the wider city.

McKenzie has received first place and first prizes in numerous competitions and festivals. Currently, she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in piano performance at UBC. During this time, Campbell is involved with the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and UBC Connects. He won an award at the UBC School of Music and is working towards a diploma in advanced violin performance

The Ubyssian spoke to The Matrix Duo about their musical careers, their inspirations and their connection to each other.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

Gloria: How was the performance today?

McKenzie: It’s interesting to play in different rooms. Normally I would play on a stage, but this one was in a more intimate atmosphere. I used to volunteer at a senior recreation center. People would be on couches and just enjoying the music. It really reminded me of that. It’s always nice to play in different kinds of atmospheres because the state is very different; When you perform on stage, you feel physically detached from the audience. But that kind of vibe is so nice because I feel like we’re all in the same space, enjoying the music together at the same time.

G: Your musical summaries are very impressive! Yet, throughout a career, there won’t always be those outlandish hits… When did you feel stuck or that music might not be for you?

Campbell: There’s never a day when I pick up the violin where at some point I don’t feel stuck. The happiest I’ve ever been was in relation to music; the most dissatisfied I was was with the music. Every time I pick up this pen and write a note, I have to think about relevance, zeitgeist, story, meaning, connection, individuality…and so on. is paralyzing. But what keeps you going is that love.

M: During COVIDPandemic of the 19th, when everything stopped, many of my competitions were cancelled. In high school, I was almost always on the move, almost on autopilot. covid19 gave me a lot of time to think. Without an audience, I started to feel more discouraged, because what got me into music was the performance. Something that seemed second nature to me was suddenly… foreign to me. I think time has really shown me that avoiding that fear around music isn’t the answer. Even though it feels uncomfortable in the moment, I really have to go out there and try to overcome these fears.

G: What makes performance personal for you?

M: I would say to convey a message, even if I play classical music without words. What I found really fascinating is that I can convey so much with just sounds. I always use this analogy or metaphor: if I have words, I feel like I’m focusing on an object, but I feel like when I’m playing, it’s like this whole soundscape . It’s as if I was painting a world. And that’s what I really liked about the performance. I felt like I had a message. And I had someone to tell.

“Music holds us together, it provides a soundtrack to our lives, it provides a basis for our memories and provides a method with which to connect the depths of our souls.”

—Jack Campbell

G: So how did you two meet and decide to collaborate together?

VS : It really is a good tale. We went to college [during] COVID-19, right? We are first grade COVID-19 generation and no one had a clue what was going on. When you’re a young musician hoping to make it big, you always dream of finding a similar creator, like what I was talking about earlier, someone you can bounce around with, someone you can play with, someone you can you can repeat with.

My first encounter with Mina was in the first week of school when she followed me on Instagram. We found ourselves in a Zoom breakout room in our history class. And we were with another man, who we would be absolutely guilty of not discussing now. And that’s Mr. Daniel Ketter, who’s the best clarinetist I ever heard in my life.

Now you have to understand that the clarinet is not something that by nature is supposed to sound good… God put the clarinet on Earth to bring more joy to life! But Daniel Ketter makes it an instrument of the most formidable beauty and appearance. And other than that, he’s the most phenomenal man. [So] we ended up together in this Zoom room of history. And it was one of those times where you can kind of feel…a collective consciousness that wasn’t spoken, where you can tell the three of us were like, ‘Oh, my God. meeting other young musicians we love! is really fun!”

And then Daniel says, “I just got here from New Jersey. Do you want to play something together,then Mina turns on her microphone, which is rare. And Mina says, “Yes, I would really like that.” And then I opened Google and I’m like “violin, clarinet, piano”. Turns out there’s a lot of repertoire for that. We chose a piece. Daniel said, we’ll see you at school in a week.

M: We had never met before! It was truly a random opportunity.

VS : We entered this rehearsal room. And the moment we started talking, something I could say…clicked instantly. And it turned into a very long rehearsal, which turned into going to get food, then a hike to the beach, and then we realized we were going to be a trio. This led to multiple rehearsals, great friendships for me, and Mina composing songs for us. She introduced us to her recital… outside of school.

Mina is the musical partner with whom I have the most points in common artistically. It started with, in a week, Mina told me, since we both have this interest in pop music, that we should start writing songs together. And I said to Mina, since you’re my favorite pianist, I have to start playing Beethoven sonatas with you. The rest is history.

G: What do you bring out in each other?

VS: Mina makes me feel good! Besides being one of my favorite humans alive, there are two things I take away from playing with her. The first is that she has the best phrasing. You have just heard his concert! Emotional journeys are amazing.

M: I really admire not only the way Jack plays, but also him as a person. I’m going to get sentimental now. His presence and company is something I have never had before. Before, I lived mainly competitions and solo performances. He speaks very eloquently and it’s so nice, because when you’re a soloist, a lot of your thoughts about the music are kept to yourself. With him, I can bounce back on ideas. For example, after performances, we discuss how we felt about different parts and things like that. Playing with him gave me a new appreciation for music.

About Madeline J. Carter

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