Jhonnatan Mata, Director of String Ensembles

Role(s) at Shipley:
Director of String Ensembles
4th – 12th Grade String Ensembles Director & Strings Teacher
LS & MS Chamber Ensemble Director
Upper School Orchestra

BM, Simón Bolívar Conservatory of Music
MM, Duquesne University
Artist Diploma, Performance, Duquesne University

Prior Professional Experience:
Orchestra Director, El Sistema
String Sectional Specialist, El Sistema
Advisor, El Sistema USA

Outside performance groups or professional organizations to which you belong:
Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra
Private Studio Director, Serving 20+ Students

How/why did you get into music?
I became interested in music because of my mother, who is one of my heroes. She is a soprano who performed in many operettas and choirs. She also taught in the public school system in Caracas, Venezuela. Her influence on my brother, sister, and me was enormous. We were always surrounded by singing and choirs. When we were children, she gave us the choice of being instrumentalists or singers. I became interested in strings because of the son of my mother’s mentor. He was always playing and I was inspired to try stings.

What is your music teaching philosophy or style?
  1. Feel it. Whatever it is you are doing, put your soul and heart into it. If you dedicate yourself to something, then you will get results you could never have imagined.
  2. Believe in what you are doing. Give yourself the chance to make mistakes, learn from them, and evolve from those experiences.
  3. Music can take you anywhere. You don’t have to have a music career to be in contact with music—it will be with you all your life—it’s a gift. Music can help you in any situation.
How would your students describe you?
Students would say that I treat them like musician friends - not just little ones. This makes students feel inspired and up for the challenge. I am passionate about music and take it really seriously, but I balance that with a good sense of humor. 

Do you have any musical heroes or inspiration? If so, who are they and why?
In addition to my mother, people who have inspired me include Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema. Every time I met him, he changed my life just with a few words. He was a genius.

Randolph Kelly, principle viola of the Pittsburgh Symphony, inspired me to take actions. He was a genius of how to see music and use your instrument to share your feelings. You can learn to play an instrument, but transmitting emotion is the most difficult thing to teach.

What music do you listen to for fun?
The range of music I listen to is influenced by the range of ages I’m exposed to everyday—I have two young daughters and I have students from second grade to high school. I always ask my students what they’re listening to and we even have a couple of classes each year where students will share and play the music they’re listening to. It’s amazing to share these moments–they enrich us all, students and teachers. And of course, I love to listen to Latin American roots music.

Fun Fact:
I travel every year two or three times with El Sistema to do social work in Venezuela with children who want to play music. I love sharing music with them and I learn so much from them.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you:
I am passionate about performance and I do it often with my quartet and in orchestras. We often travel to New York and Washington, D.C., in addition to playing in the Philadelphia region.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.