BELOIT - "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
That quote of Isaac Newton is somewhat applicable to upcoming violin virtuoso and Beloit native Matt Pickart, 33.
Years of being nurtured in a rich musical environment by Beloit talent has propelled his career, sending him and his violin to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.
"Growing up in a musical household and the experiences in the Beloit musical community were definitely a huge inspiration for me," Pickart said.
Pickart, director and co-founder of Clazz International Music Festival, is currently an assistant professor at Webster University in St. Louis, teaching violin, viola, improvisation and music entrepreneurship.
He's performed at both Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Music Hall's Weill Recital Hall. Other career highlights include performances with Barry Manilow on tour, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Bernadette Peters and the Vogues to name a few. In 2018 he was named an honorary artist of the Global Music Partnership.
A native of Beloit, Pickart began violin at the age of 3 under the tutelage of Alison Lee Jewer, longtime Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra (BJSO) member. He grew up in a musical household as the son of John Pickart and Martha Dunegan, who both served as principal cellist of the BJSO for a combined 30 years.
Pickart said he took private lessons with Jewer for 11 years. In third grade, at Morgan Elementary, he was able to study under his mother who at the time had a two-year position teaching orchestra in the School District of Beloit. Pickart would go on to learn from Aldrich School's orchestra teacher Geri Frase, and later from his father who was the Beloit Memorial High School orchestra teacher for three decades.
In addition to his studies on the violin, Pickart also took bass guitar and compositions lessons. He studied piano with Ian Nie, a longtime Beloit College faculty member and conductor of the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra. By high school Pickart was studying violin under Eugene Purdue of Madison and playing with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra.
"I had a wonderful experience in the Beloit public schools," Pickart said.
His favorite teacher at Beloit Memorial High School, the late Eric Strickler, who taught English, reminded him not to take life too seriously.
"Whenever life gets crazy, I always hear Mr. Strickler's voice in my head saying, 'don't panic' with his big grin looking at me," Pickart said.
When not studying music, Pickart said he had the typical childhood in Beloit. One of his favorite pastimes was playing with his older brother, Mike Pickart, and his childhood friend, David Wilson, in their Bootmaker Drive neighborhood. Hospital Hill was a popular stop for sledding. Snowball fights and badminton were often on the agenda as well.
As a soloist, Pickart has appeared with orchestras in the United States, Italy and the Netherlands. Pickart said he's been working in Europe for the past 10 summers at music festivals in Germany and Italy.
Three years ago Pickart started his own summer educational music festival - Clazz International Music Festival - for high school and college students which takes place in Tuscany, Italy.
Pickart likes to get back to his parents and hometown. He's especially excited to perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto at the upcoming Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra concerts.
"I'm super excited. It's going to be a celebration of the BJSO, myself and coming back home and celebrating Beloit," he said.