In part two of our series on mentors, Dominic Hoey talks to musician and founder/CEO of Youth Arts New Zealand (YANZ) Matthew Goldsworthy.
Matthew set up YANZ while still in high school, with the goal of supporting New Zealand’s young creatives. Two years on, the organisation now has five staff and an official launch event scheduled for early next year. Not only is Matthew supporting and inspiring other young people through his work with YANZ, he’s also been mentored by an experienced professional in the creative industries through The Big Idea’s Mentoring in the Arts Program.
Unsurprisingly for someone who started an organisation at 18, Matthew had a lot of support from a young age.
“I didn’t have formal mentors as such while growing up,” he says, “but I definitely had people I admired and looked up to. My parents have been incredible life mentors - from my mum teaching me about spirituality and empathy, to my dad teaching me about fairness, strategic thinking and sticking to values.”
Matthew also had encouragement from a number of industry professionals, including, ex-Split Enz member and CEO of Play It Strange, Mike Chunn; CEO of LearnCoach and Young New Zealander of the Year Dave Cameron; and photographer Robert Knight.
“All these people have taken risks on me, and I am so incredibly grateful for that,” says Matthew.
Tackling shameful youth suicide rates
It was his own creative practice that taught Matthew the power of having an artistic outlet.
“I’ve been playing piano since I was around 7 or 8 years old, and absolutely love it. Playing and composing music alleviated my anxiety immensely while growing up, and is still one of the only things that allows me to truly articulate my thoughts and feelings.”
“A good mentor is someone who truly listens. Not just to words, but to deeper meaning, purpose and vision.”
This was one of Matthew’s motivations for starting YANZ, to help other young New Zealanders express themselves and deal with strengthening their mental health.
He says New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is “shameful, especially for a country that prides itself on community and inclusivity”. He dreams of turning the tide on our mental health crisis, and believes that “creativity, and its power to unlock purpose and potential can help achieve that. This is why it’s so important to teach young people to express themselves and have an outlet.”
Matthew Goldsworthy Performing
When it comes to mentors, Matthew believes that to be successful they have to approach the challenges their mentee brings to them holistically.
“Being passionate is great, but without a roadmap for how to get to where you want to be, it’s incredibly isolating and frustrating.”
“A good mentor is someone who truly listens. Not just to words, but to deeper meaning, purpose and vision.” He says this opens up a dialogue, allowing mentors to use their own life experience to guide the mentee on their creative and professional journey.
This is a process that Matthew is going through with his own goals for YANZ, allowing him to “drill down and plan how I’m going to achieve these dreams. Being passionate is great, but without a roadmap for how to get to where you want to be, it’s incredibly isolating and frustrating.”
I ask Matthew what these dreams are. He says a big one is to change the public perception around what it means to be creative, and to “align young people with their passions, allowing them to find their voice and purpose.”
Matthew and Some of the YANZ Team
Matthew’s goals are not small, but the 19-year-old is confident that with the support he has behind him, they are achievable. He plans to continue to build a community around YANZ, and in doing so open up space for young people to not only create, but to be comfortable expressing themselves.
“I truly hope that one day we can allow every single young New Zealander to have equitable and positive experiences with creative practices.”
“Young people have immense talent – it’s just about teaching them that they have permission and ability to be creative, which causes this incredible ripple effect. I truly hope that one day we can allow every single young New Zealander to have equitable and positive experiences with creative practices.”