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Beline Obeid

College to the fullest

Samantha Matthew is using her time in college to experience as much as possible. Band, sports, volunteering and preparing for a career after, keeps her on the go and moving forward.

October 06, 2011
Taking advantage of every opportunity and making the most of it is something most people strive to do.

Twenty-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods resident Samantha Matthew is doing it.

In May, the University of Notre Dame junior trombone player traveled to Brazil with 70 members of the university's concert band, performing in several cities, interacting with local children, dining on local cuisine and soaking up culture.

Sam Matthew plays trombone in the University of Notre Dame Marching Band.
Concerts and culture

"Performing in another country was such a unique experience," said Matthew. "We performed in Teatro Municipal de Ouro Preto, the oldest theater of all three Americas. We also performed in the Candelaria Church in Rio de Janeiro, which was built in 1775. Each venue was elegant and historical, which made the concerts even more special to us."

The band performed traditional American songs, some Brazilian music, and Duke Ellington favorites. Matthew said jazz was a hit. "They don't have jazz in Brazil, so they loved this."

Band members also learned about Brazilians' concert idiosyncracies. Advertisements for the concerts reported the start time a half hour earlier than the actual start time.

"We found out that they did this purposely because Brazilians are known for being laid back and often show up late," she said.

While Matthew is one of approximately 12,000 students in South Bend, in Brazil she and the band were "big men on campus."

"I felt like an undeserving celebrity as we received standing ovations during each concert and played as many as five encore songs while audiences chanted for us to stay on stage," Matthew said. "As we were given a tour around a school campus in our concert attire, students screamed out windows as we passed by."

And, just like the Disney song says, "It's a Small World After All," Matthew found out how small when it came to pop culture and social media. In Sao Paolo, the band performed concerts for middle and high school students, and had an opportunity to interact with them.

"We performed two concerts and afterwards had casual conversations and gave the kids advice about applying and getting into colleges. It was so interesting learning about their culture while they asked us about ours," she said.

In May, the college junior traveled with the band to Brazil to perform and experience Brazilian life, including this caiman she held during a tour of the Amazon River.
Topics ranged from Justin Bieber to Jersey Shore to what age Brazilians can begin working to what they do during summer break.

"Interacting with the kids at the school in Sao Paolo is something I will never forget," Matthew said. "A few of the high school students even found me on Facebook and many want to attend universities in the United States."

Carnivores and calamities

In addition to the meat-heavy diet — "The food was basically all the meat you could eat; anywhere and at every meal" — Matthew also got to taste frog and chicken hearts.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the food did not have labels, so we probably ate weirder food than that, but didn't know it," she said.

No trip would be complete without complications. Matthew got an extra dose with cancelled and delayed flights getting to Brazil due to the tornado in Joplin, Mo.

"Nineteen of us got stuck in Miami and Belo Horizonte, each for one night, and missed one full day of the tour. We were dubbed 'The Miami 19' which is still referred to in the band today."

Matthew, second from left, and Brazilian students after a concert performance.
Back in South Bend

Concert band at Notre Dame is just one of many activities this high-achieving and active student participates. She also is a member of the marching band, basketball band and trombone choir.

The 2009 Grosse Pointe North graduate takes advantage of every opportunity, mixing band responsibilities with sports, community service and career-focused activities at Notre Dame. She plays intramural volleyball, soccer, floor hockey, softball and basketball and club ice hockey, a sport she never played until lacing up at Notre Dame.

She gives trumpet lessons to young students through Salvation Army Bandlink, is a member of the Women in Business Club and Entrepreneurship Club and has helped with university-sponsored service projects in Iowa and Tennessee. And, in a twist of fate from her Brazil travel travails, she is organizing a service trip later this month to aid in the ongoing clean-up in Joplin, Mo.

What lies ahead

Her college experiences also have helped Matthew line up a summer job where the accounting major will be an audit intern in the Detroit office of PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm.

"As a sophomore I met the Detroit recruiter at an event while he was at Notre Dame," Matthew said. "I want to begin my career in public accounting. It would be a dream job to work in the Tigers or Red Wing organization someday."

Whatever the future holds, Matthew is taking full advantage of the here and now.

"My college experience has been busy, challenging, fun, and rewarding," she said. "I have gotten involved in so many ways here at school. My advice to everyone headed to college, or even still in their first year or two, would be to get involved in one or two clubs or organizations and sign up for anything else you're interested in. Staying busy keeps you efficient."

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