by Kimberly Shires
Stephanie Mathias, of Lake Ridge, Va, has been busy navigating the new realities of 2020, and she is getting it done. Stephanie, who makes a living as a session violinist said, “I lost my career overnight”. At the beginning to lockdown, depression started creeping in. It did not take long before Stephanie pulled up her bootstraps to reclaim back as much of her normal as possible, such as practicing martial arts and working again. Stephanie also created some great new music. The acoustic version of Stephanie’s new single “Hero Side” was released on September 18 and we can look forward to the fully produced version on October 16.
Stephanie is an award-winning pop-centric singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who rocks the electric violin. Stephanie has been creating since she was three and won her first song competition at the age of 10. Stephanie has one EP, “Fragile” and several singles under her belt.
Stephanie is a classically trained violist, although she left the competitive world of classical music long ago. She laughed, “they eat pressure for breakfast” referencing those days when sleeping in the college practice room was considered acceptable.
Stephanie jokingly calls her viola “the slacker instrument”. Well, the viola is no slacker and neither is Stephanie Mathias. After just one conversation with Stephanie, it is clear as day that she is a force and she’s got grit in spades. She takes adversity and makes some damn tasty lemonade out of it.
Mental Health Advocate
Stephanie reflected on the last couple of months and reckoned, “I didn’t catch COVID, I caught depression.” Stephanie is not a stranger to her struggles with anxiety and depression. While most people assume that music is a coping mechanism, to a working musician like Stephanie, it suddenly became a source of stress. She felt pressure to keep writing, keep up with live-streaming and figure out how to not succumb to this career bomb blowing up in front of her as she navigated unemployment assistance. All while experiencing the onset of a nasty bout of depression and anxiety.
As a matter of fact, Stephanie’s latest single “Hero Side” addresses the topic of mental health, with underlying messages of vulnerability for the heroes around us while also recognizing the hero within each of us. Stephanie hopes that this song can serve as a source of encouragement for other struggling with mental health issues and also as a vehicle to raise awareness about the issue.
Stephanie is passionate about mental health. She said, “If I am going to advocate for something, it is going to be mental health”. Without it, nothing works. Through her own journey Stephanie said, “I’ve had to learn that everything is not my fault.” She has also learned how to spot the silver lining in any disappointment, which has proven to be an effective coping mechanism.
“I’ve learned from the failures.” Stephanie continued, “If I failed at something, something else worked instead”. In reality, her perceived failures have led to some of her most life-defining successes such as meeting her husband and starting her own business. This connection is not lost on her. It is the grit she lives on and it’s made her fearless. She knows for any possible failure, there will be one of two outcomes 1) Success; OR 2) A new opportunity. Both outcomes are great. That doesn’t mean she is immune to disappointment, but she handles it like a pro and finds a way to flip it around for incredible personal growth.
At the beginning of lockdown, Stephanie really struggled to create. She was stuck in the same fog as the rest of the world, but finally was able to start writing again. She also began to work out ways to record her planned single, “Hero Side”, which is about two people asking each other for help. Stephanie reflected that sometimes you write a song before you need it. Then, as life happens, and you gain a different appreciation for the message behind the song. She says her husband has been her hero though the turmoil of the last few months and the joy her daughter brings, inspires her every day.
Stephanie writes her songs on the piano. The combination of playing piano and writing has always been a good source of emotional release. Stephanie said, “music has been a way to humanize myself and find a solution”. Sometimes she imagines, through her lyrical expression, that she is solving a problem for someone else, when she is really working though her own conflicts.
Stephanie grew up listening to classical music and her classical background informs her writing today. Stephanie reminisced to when she was a child looking up to her classically trained mother play the piano. “It was beautiful,” she choked. Stephanie sadly lost her mother when she was just 18 years old.
Stephanie reflected, “I still love classical music to this day, but I am glad I am not playing in an orchestra.” She recognizes that her training and experience probably taught her the discipline and perseverance that has made her the successful mother, wife and musician she is today.
Today, Stephanie looks forward to what she calls “Part 3”, or “life after COVID”. She hopes to strike the balance between her overcommitted life before the big “C” and the lull of nothing during the big “C”. She has found a clear sense of what she values and what she wants to prioritize going forward. She loves spending time with her daughter and being surrounded by kids. They provide her so much energy that she contemplates fostering or adopting one day. Stephanie is also digging being involved in the local music community from home virtually. She hopes the online options to engage with the community and audiences continue after social distancing is a thing of the past. Stephanie said she is ready to let go of the stress of having to say yes to everything. If these last few months have made her aware of anything, it has shined a light on what she values in life and who her heroes are.
Find out more about your hero side at stephaniemathias.com
Kimberly Shires is a producer and owner of Hear Me Roar Studio. She is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who is passionate about empowering women to express themselves through music. Outside of music she enjoys hiking, biking and snuggling with her dog. Kimberly has called the DMV home her whole life.
More to Watch On Nov. 24, rising D.C.-based singer-songwriter Marilyn Hucek released her latest EP, “Love and Loss.” The collection may be Hucek’s most personal
Aria Velz is a director, TikToker, and Lesbian Media Enthusiast based in the D.C. area. On November 2nd, she sat down with me to talk about it all, from her latest production at Olney Theatre Center to the things that lead to her little corner on TikTok.
On October 29th, Olney Theatre Center wrapped its run of Prince Gomolvilas’ ‘The Brothers Paranormal.’ The disconcerting, borderline terrifying production was co-directed by Olney’s Senior Associate Artistic Director, Hallie Gordon, and Velz herself. The show was one of the spookiest times I have had in a theatre in quite some time. It was evident that the show was a well researched labor of love.