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Coleen Cook

By Coleen Cook

Catching up with a Classical Kid

February 27th, 2023

At KVNO, we’ve honored many Classical Kids over the years. Sometimes I wonder, what are some of them doing now? Did excelling in music make a difference in their life? I recently caught up with Matthew Schaich (pronounced “Shy”), our January 2005 KVNO Classical Kid, and spoke with him about his musical experience, and how it relates to his life today. I was delighted to discover that Matt is now a distinguished young scientist, who feels classical music played an important role in his life.

An Early Starter

Matt was only four years old when he started playing the violin. He and his family moved to Omaha in 2003. “I can remember listening to KVNO on the way to school in the morning in the car, and hearing the announcers talk about the Classical Kids,” Matt told me. “After I became one, it was really cool to hear my name on the radio!”

By the time Matt was a student at Kiewit Middle School, he was already an accomplished violist and pianist. “Kiewit was where I first had the chance to play in a middle school orchestra, under music teacher Camille Hinz.  It was Camille who nominated me to be a Classical Kid for January 2005.”

The Benefits of Being a Classical Kid

Matt says being a Classical Kid boosted his confidence, and motivated him to practice his instruments even harder. He cites studies that suggest that musical training stimulates brain development, especially for mathematics. And Matt believes that playing a musical instrument encourages discipline and teamwork.

After finishing high school at Millard North, Matt went on to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he combined his love of music and science with a double major in biochemistry and piano. “Organic chemistry requires intense study,” he says, “and I found that also majoring in music at the same time was an outlet for me. Spending time at the conservatory and practicing was a way that I blew off steam from spending hours studying organic chemistry structures!”

Going on to receive his Doctor of Philosophy degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Kansas University. Matt Schaich now does important cancer research at the University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania. “I started out studying how DNA fixes itself after its damaged by cancer. Currently, in Pittsburgh, I’m now studying single molecules of DNA in real time! It’s exciting! I’m hoping someday to open my own cancer research laboratory.”

Music’s Long-Term Benefits

Matt feels being a classically trained musician taught him lasting life skills. “Being a KVNO Classical Kid motivated me to practice even more. I learned discipline from all the years of practicing. I feel that excelling in music helped me in school. I also learned teamwork by playing in an orchestra.”

Science and Music Connects

Schaich says classical music has always been a huge part of his life and continues to be, although it’s science, not music that is now his chosen profession. But he sees a connection between the two. “I feel like, in science, a lot of what we do is try similar things over and over, practicing protocols again and again, until we get things just right. And I feel that in music you have to have that same tenacity and commitment, just sticking with something — doing it over and over again, until it sounds just the way that you want it to. Those skill sets are both an important part of achieving in both science and music.”

Almost two decades after being a KVNO Classical Kid, classical music still shapes Matt’s personal life. He also met his future wife Laurel while playing in the Omaha Youth Orchestra. “I met Laurel not too long after becoming a Classical Kid, while playing together. We both graduated with music degrees in piano and science. “I’m a cancer researcher and Laurel is a chemical engineer. Today, we love performing together, with me playing my violin and Laurel accompanying me on piano.” Matt concludes, “Classical music has brought so much joy and happiness to my life! I can’t imagine my life without it!”