Like mother, like son. Limelight chats to Emma and Brendan Matthews ahead of his appearance in Schools Spec.

Brendan Matthews, 12 – the youngest son of Australian soprano Emma Matthews – has been selected as one of 44 solo singers participating in the annual Schools Spectacular concert held in November. We spoke to a proud mum before talking to Brendan himself. 

Soprano Emma Matthews. Photo: Carolyn Mackay Clark.

What was your first reaction when you found out Brendan was going to be a featured singer in Schools Spec?

I squealed and jumped up and down. We were all so so delighted for him. He’s worked hard and is very excited. We are super proud. 

Have you been working with him on technique, auditions, or performances?

Brendan sings in a very natural way. Every now and then I might suggest a different vowel, or give him a few more performance ideas, but he’s really finding his own way. There’s nothing to fix, he has a natural technique, and I don’t want to mess with it. Brendan’s dad, Stephen Matthews, was a treble when he was a boy and had a long career with Opera Australia as a tenor until he became a set builder for the company. So the foundations have been set, he’s come from fine opera stock. 

He surprises us all the time, too. He’s constantly evolving as a singer and he’s only 12. He has, as a mentor, Kane Wheatley, who has encouraged and guided Brendan since they first met. He has also been working with Candice Boyd at Newtown High School of the Performing Arts. So his team is quite rounded. 

When did Brendan first express an interest in performing?

He’s always sung and made us laugh. We took him to Mary Poppins and he’s wanted to see every musical since… and of course he spent many hours in the green room at the Sydney Opera house, waiting for me to finish a show.

Brendan joined All Starz at Peakhurst last year, really wanting to tap… And has been singing and tapping non-stop since. His first words were sung… we were reading him the nursery rhyme, “There were ten in the bed, and the little one said…” and he sang, “roll over… roll over…” He’s a performer, for sure. 

Has Brendan shown a passion for other kinds of performance outside of singing?

Brendan loves his tap dancing and has been working on his dancing… He hopes for a career in musical theatre… and he’s got his career path all set out already, but singing is his main talent.

How will you feel watching him on the day?

We’ll be very proud. He’ll be in his element! Brendan has already said to me “I’m singing in front of a way bigger audience, than you ever have Mum!” Ha.

Brendan Matthews. Photo: supplied.

Brendan, a current student at Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, talks about his love of performing and his hopes for the future. 

When did you realise that singing was one of your talents?

Ever since I performed for a marathon “Rally for Life”, when I was eight, I thought to myself that this is what I wanted to do. I want to perform and I love performing. Every time I stand on stage that love for performing grows.

What kinds of things have you learnt about performing from your mum growing up?

I have learnt to always be kind and nice to work with, to give it 100% every time you go on stage, and that commitment to your character is extremely important. Not to just play your character, but to be your character, when you are on the stage. 

How did you feel when you heard that you were going to be a featured singer in Schools Spec?

When I heard I was going to be a featured artist for Schools Spectacular, I was shocked and excited! It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.

Do you see yourself pursuing a career in the performing arts? If so, will it be opera like your mum? 

I do see myself pursuing a career in the performing arts, and while I think opera is fantastic, I also enjoy dancing and acting. I’d like to pursue a career in musical theatre. I love opera, though. 

[Mum interrupts… ] Who knows what will happen when Brendan’s voice breaks… I always wanted to sing musical theatre, but my voice was very much a classical sound. Dancing and acting is very important in opera too… we’ll see Brendan… we’ll see. 

Schools Spectacular takes place November 24 – 25.

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