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VSAC helps an aspiring musician hit the right notes as he prepares for college and career

Written by
VSAC Staff

June 18, 2024


Matthew Webster

I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life
Am I living it right?

-“Why Georgia” by John Mayer

The song “Why Georgia” by John Mayer was a surprising choice for Blue Mountain Union senior Matt Webster to perform at his senior concert this spring. (If you don’t recognize the words of the chorus above, look it up on your streaming music service of choice; chances are, the tune will ring a bell.) Matt, who lives in Groton and has been playing guitar and bass in school concerts and at local venues for several years, is better known for “harder stuff”—more electric and classic rock. But he wanted to challenge himself by doing more singing. “I’ve tried to get more into that, but playing and singing at the same time is hard,” Matt admits.

However, the lyrics to “Why Georgia” felt very familiar to Matt and his classmates, who have spent the past year contemplating their upcoming high school graduation and their next steps in higher education, career, and life in general.

In Matt’s case, he’ll head to Husson University in Bangor, Maine, in the fall, with plans to major in audio engineering. While those plans can now be stated in a single sentence, behind that statement is a year and a half of introspection, research, and planning.

Finding extra guidance to prepare for tomorrow

Kassidy Moore, an Outreach Counselor with VSAC, has worked with Matt throughout that process. She’s met with him frequently since the middle of his junior year as part of VSAC’s GEAR UP program, which offers students from modest means, many of whose parents did not complete college, extra guidance as they prepare for education or career training after high school.

According to Moore, “Matt has been working hard to prepare for life after high school and to meet his goals of being the first in his family to go to college. He acknowledges that this is not easy, so he has been willing to put in extra work and time to apply to schools, apply for financial aid, apply for scholarships, and plan for his future.”

Moore sees Matt as a leader in the school community, especially when it comes to his passions—music and broadcasting. “He works incredibly hard to take care of himself and the people around him,” she says.

This year, Matt served as the Editor-in-Chief for BMU’s student-run broadcasting program, the Bucks News Network or BNN. In this role, he says, “I do a lot of the organizing, training, and helping newer people out, and I’ll jump in to cover stories occasionally if they stand out to me. It’s a big time commitment, but I love the technology,” says Matt, who enjoys putting together videos and podcasts, as well as creating intro songs for video segments on BNN and for friends who have their own video channels and podcasts.

Finding inspiration through musical legends

Matt was also one of a few students who stepped up to organize this year’s spring concert when the music teacher had to take a medical leave.

They originally cancelled all the spring concerts. Then the principal approached another music student, Karli Blood, and asked her if the concert was something we still wanted to do. Karli brought me in, and we brought a couple of other seniors in, and we took it upon ourselves to put it together. 

Matt also credits Ms. LaBonte, who does a lot of the school’s music lessons, for making that possible. “Since I can’t be there every single day for practice, and I can’t play and conduct at the same time, she’s been really helpful,” he says.

For Matt, moving ahead with the concert program was a given. “In my eyes, the spring concert is our moment. We wanted to make it a celebration for the seniors.”

Matt says he was inspired to start learning music after seeing the Queen biopic movie Bohemian Rhapsody” when he was 12. “I’ve always been drawn to those biographies, and after that movie, I got into Queen, along with Elton John and the Beatles. I asked my dad for a keyboard to start learning. Then, a couple of months later, when my cousin went away to basic training, he gave me his old guitars. One thing led to another, and when I was about 14, I ended up dropping piano and started playing guitar.”

Matt’s music style covers a wide range, from rock, to heavy metal, to blues, to pop. “Over time, my tastes have changed, but I’ve always made sure that I learned music I enjoyed.”

He started teaching himself basic songs from watching online videos. Then he learned to read music, and eventually moved on to playing by ear. “My family could never afford lessons, so I’m completely self-taught,” he says.

First Gen

Matt’s parents divorced when he was young, and he’s the oldest child at both houses. He’s one of five kids—a mix of siblings, half-siblings and step-siblings—at his dad’s house, and at his mom’s house, it’s just Matt and his younger sister. Both his dad and his stepmom work at the school; his mom works at the local bank, and his stepdad drives a propane delivery truck. While his parents have taken some college courses, Matt hopes to be the first in his family to earn a degree.

Despite the fact that Matt is the first in the family to go to college, he has always been aware that he has an array of choices to pursue after high school. “I know a lot of kids feel pressured by family members or teachers to go to college. I never felt that. Up until a year and a half ago, I didn’t think I would go.”

But once Matt saw career opportunity in his passions for music and audio-visual technology, he says “college seemed like the best way in.” His goal is to eventually start his own business, creating a one-stop shop for music production where he can produce music, engineer the audio, help market the music, and more—setting up several income streams for himself, while also supporting his ability to keep performing.

“When I make my own music, I’m already very hands-on [with engineering and production]. It would be frustrating if someone else were producing and I didn’t know how to communicate what I wanted,” he explains. “So if I know how to produce, that’s another foot in the door. I also want to be able to help other musicians when they need it.”

Making choices to create your own path

Matt applied and was accepted to several colleges. While Husson was his first choice, he held off “putting the bumper sticker on,” as he says, until he received his financial aid package and made sure the investment was doable—following advice he received from Moore, his VSAC counselor.

“I would have been lost without VSAC,” Matt says. “I tried to be as ahead of the game as possible, because I knew it was something you couldn’t push off. Kassidy was very helpful at organizing.”

Matt says he also appreciated the VSAC-sponsored campus tours. “Every tour helps, no matter what,” he says. “This year we toured four colleges in one day, and one of those was Husson. Even though the tour wasn’t super in-depth, it gave me the incentive to go on my own tour later. So my dad and I went back. We drove up in a huge snowstorm. It took us six hours each way,” he recalls.

He's grateful to his parents and step-parents, particularly his dad, for being up for the road trips and for being good sounding boards. “They were involved and supportive. They gave their opinions on the colleges, but they left the decision to me, and I did all the work on my own,” says Matt, who was glad to have VSAC to advise him.

“I felt a little lost at the beginning of the school year,” he admits.

Then Kassidy helped me prepare and get my applications off the ground. Right before Christmas break, when I just wanted to start my vacation, she stayed at school with me and helped me get everything done. Through her and through Ms. (Dawn) Blanchard, the school counselor, I’ve also gotten information on lots of scholarship opportunities.

While Matt’s next step is set, the rest of his future is a song still waiting to be written.

“I’ve never liked learning songs note by note. Music should be fun and open,” he says. “You should be able to mess around a little bit and add your own interpretation.”