Wednesday, October 21, 2020 / Online
Over the past few years, Mathew Sloan has been to Korea, England, Tennessee, and a remote island in Lake Superior.
That’s because the Lakehead alumnus has wide-ranging passions. As well as being a virtuoso guitarist, a former lighthouse keeper, and a novice bonsai gardener, Mathew is proficient in several languages – French, Spanish, Korean, Hawaiian Creole, and Arabic (his mother is from Lebanon).
Even more impressively, Mathew managed to combine these interests with studying environmental management at Lakehead’s Thunder Bay campus.
“I was drawn to the program’s focus on providing the knowledge and tools to preserve forests and create a healthy and manageable future,” he says.
Mathew received his Honours Bachelor of Environmental Management degree in May 2020 and, as part of the ceremony, he was chosen to give the valedictorian speech and play a song on his guitar, which had to be pre-recorded and shared online because of the pandemic.
His time at Lakehead coincided with his evolution as a musician. Mathew studied classical music as a child before gravitating towards the acoustic guitar after hearing flamenco and fingerstyle guitarist Matt Sellick (a fellow Lakehead grad) perform.
“Every week, my brother and I would go to Starbucks and listen to Matt play. I was fascinated by the emotion that goes into his sound,” he says.
Mathew’s attraction to fingerstyle guitar – playing the guitar without a pick – became even stronger when he heard the legendary country musician Chet Atkins on YouTube.
“I fell in love with his music and joined the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society, and in 2019, I was able to go to the Society’s annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and meet other musicians and friends of Chet Atkins. It was a real thrill.”
Mathew also began forging musical connections in South Korea.
“There’s a famous guitar player called Sungha Jung who I really admire, so during the summer between my first and second years at Lakehead I went to Seoul to play music and listen to Sungha and other guitarists.”
While Mathew was there, he caught the attention of a company called Gopher Wood Guitars.
“They told me that if I was committed to coming back and playing concerts, they’d sponsor me to make an album with one of their guitars.”
Listen to Mathew perform Rocky Roads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuvvT6cv2n8&feature=emb_logo
His alternative folk EP, Peregrine, was successfully launched in 2017. This was the same year that Mathew got a summer job as an assistant lighthouse keeper on Porphyry Island off the shore of Lake Superior.
“The island is a 45-minute boat ride from Silver Islet – it’s really remote,” Mathew says.
Besides archiving files and cleaning up the lighthouse, Mathew tracked birds and wildlife on the island. The nights, however, were his favourite time of day.
“When the sun went down you could see the stars and the lighthouse beam. It was magical.”
More recently, in February 2020, Mathew went to England to work at the nursery of master bonsai gardener Peter Chan to explore another aspect of the natural world. This overseas journey was a turning point for Mathew. He is now hoping to do a master’s in landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia.
“But,” Mathew says, “no matter where I go in life, I will always remember the adventures I’ve had at Lakehead.”
Listen to more of Mathew’s music: