Scholarship Interview: Matt Dendy, Violinist

Sarasota violinist Matt Dendy was a five-time Fine Arts Society of Sarasota scholarship recipient from 2005-2009.  Matt graduated from Booker High School in 2005 and attended The University of South Florida where he was Assistant Concertmaster and, in 2010, earned his Bachelor's degree in Music Performance.

It's well known that music can have a profound influence on our lives and that is certainly true for Matt.  After attending a concert featuring violinist Joshua Bell performing with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Matt told his parents he wanted a violin for Christmas…not the typical request from a toddler!  At just 3 years old, Matt knew that he wanted to play the violin.  Thankfully Matt's parents (or maybe Santa Claus) granted his wish and that year Matt found a violin under the tree and started taking Suzuki lessons.  At the age of six, he began playing with the Florida West Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra and has been performing ever since.

When asked about the contribution his multiple Fine Arts Society scholarships made on his education, Matt notes "Your scholarships played a huge role in my ability to attend college.  Without that support I would not have been able to pursue my music education.  And even with the substantial financial assistance from the scholarships, I still have student loan debt 10 years after college.  Thank you for helping to reduce that burden."

Upon graduation from USF, Matt began his professional music career playing for the Asolo Repertory Theatre and played as a first violinist for The Venice Symphony.   He also performed regularly with The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota, Southwest Florida Symphony and the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra.  Matt also played for national and international music festivals and toured Florida with prominent artists like Johnny Mathis, Mannheim Steamroller, Celtic Woman and The Irish Tenors.  Despite these many opportunities, Matt found himself needing to supplement his musician's income by working as a waiter between performance jobs.  He explains, "Even if a musician secures a principal position with an orchestra, it's difficult to earn enough income.  Not only because those opportunities don't open up often, but when they do, the positions may not be full time.  Under those circumstances, it's difficult to have that be your sole source of income."

It was while waiting tables that Matt saw musicians happily playing live music every night in the restaurant.  That was when Matt took a left turn in his career.  "I never thought I would play a 5-string electric violin, but I decided to shift my focus and build a business for myself called SRQ Violinist.  In order to practice new music and expand my repertoire of songs I started playing on the sidewalks of St. Armand's Circle.People were encouraging and eventually I got my first recurring job playing during brunch downtown at State Street Eating House.  That was three years ago and other gigs have since been added including The Cottage on Siesta Key, Art Ovation hotel, Whole Foods Brasserie Honore, Sarasota Waterworks, art galleries and other venues.  I'm very happy, I have control of my career choices and can support my family."  He adds, "Combined with my private engagements playing at weddings and other events, I now earn a living playing live 25-30 times a month all year long.  I've enjoyed playing on yachts, private islands and other unique venues and the interaction with people is great.  I get to play all types of music, from classical to jazz to current popular songs."

When asked to look back and give advice to his 18-year-old self, Matt notes "I would have told myself to think outside of the box and explore all types of music and performance, not just classical orchestral music."

Matt will often use a loop pedal to record himself in a live setting on keyboard and percussion and then play his violin to accompany that music.  To see and hear Matt performing, click the following link:

To view Matt's calendar of upcoming performance venues or to contact him about a private engagement,  click the following link:

Matt and his wife Kim, a third-grade teacher at Fruitville Elementary,  live in Sarasota with their daughters Grace, age 5 and Olivia, age 4.  If you see Matt performing around town, please stop and enjoy his music and congratulate him on behalf of the members of the Fine Arts Society.

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Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc.
PO Box 1432
Sarasota, FL 34230-1432

The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Inc. is a “501(c)(3) Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Organization licensed in 1969 – a charity for Education/School Systems services.”
The organization promotes, encourages, supports and generally furthers the best interests of the arts in Florida and in particular, recognizes, honors and perpetuates the fine arts, creative products and works of Florida artists.

A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the division of consumer services at or by calling toll-free 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within the state. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the state.