Campus Celebrities Matt Beilis and Mike Baron

Matt Beilis is a singer, songwriter, and pianist. He performed alongside his friend and guitarist Mike Baron in Mary Baldwin College’s Nuthouse on April 1st. The young musicians are currently on tour, playing a set of both original songs and covers at  colleges large and small.

Mike Baron (left) and Matt Beilis

Based out of their home state New Jersey, both Beilis and Baron are living the dream of playing music, which began early in their lives. “I’m classically trained in paino,” says Beilis, 30. “I’ve been playing the piano since I was about three and a half years old. I kind of spoke piano before I spoke English,” he explains. Baron’s interest in music started young, as well. “I started playing guitar when I was around 10--been playing since then. I’ve had lessons since I was, like, 10 or 11,” says Baron, 24.

The performers didn’t jump right into a musical career, though. Beilis went to college for Finance and Computer Science at Columbia University, as he was timid about pursuing music as a full time career. “It’s harsh. A career in entertainment is definitely not an easy life,” Beilis says. Higher education was his “Plan B,” or something to fall back on in the event his dream of becoming a musician didn’t pan out. “At the end of college, I realized I would rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable. So, I pursued 'Plan A' and I never looked back,” he said, grinning.

Baron too went to school for a little while, studying Jazz and Pop Music at William Paterson University, near his hometown. He admits, “My Plan A has always been music. I started playing professionally when I was 21. I was going to school for music, and realized that it was kind of pointless, so I left. It’s been working out much better since then.”

After their paths crossed through shared studio sessions, Beilis and Baron became friends, and Baron joined Beilis on tour about two months ago. “We’re basically touring around, spreading the good word, and playing some good music,” says Beilis, who began touring after growing a fan base through YouTube.

Mike Baron (left) poses with Matt Beilis

Both young men are celebrating a successful run in the music industry so far. Beilis states, “Regardless of the industry that you’re in, success is doing what you love and being able to survive on it. If you happen to hit it big, then all the better, but success is being able to wake up and do what you love every single day.” Baron agrees; “I would much rather work 15 hours a day at something I enjoy doing, than work eight hours a day at something I don’t enjoy doing. I’ve done both, and a nine-to-five job drains the life out of me.” They both pride themselves on being full time musicians, something they wouldn’t give up for any amount of money.

Their work days aren’t nearly as simple as sitting behind a desk, however. “If we have a night show, we wake up nice and early, get showered, get dressed, and hit the road. We get to the hotel and settle in a little bit, leave for the venue, play an amazing show, and go back and just chill.  It’s a lot less glamorous than people think,” Beilis laughs. Beilis and Baron drove seven hours from New Jersey to get to Staunton, Virginia for their show at the College. Baron says, “We spent maybe fifteen minutes at the hotel and came straight here to set up.” It’s a busy life for them, and not every show goes exactly as planned.

Every performer experiences some difficulty on stage at some point in their life, and that’s something neither Beilis nor Baron is immune to. “I have definitely lost my voice mid-show. I’ve been sick and had to go on [stage], push through, and get through the show,” Beilis says. He had to adjust the range of the songs and pick and choose which notes to sing in order to make his performance work. To Beilis, performing is only partly singing. There is a whole other aspect that lies in stage presence and being an instrumentalist.”

Baron feels the same way. He experienced a music stand mishap when a binder thick with pages of sheet music was too heavy for his stand to support. “The entire thing fell while we were playing. I was just reading the music, so I didn’t know what to play,” he explained. In the very same show, his guitar pedal cut out and barred him from playing a solo.“I think the most important thing for us in not letting anyone know you’re struggling,” Baron says. Beilis agrees, adding, “A lot of times, when things happen on stage, people that are on stage feel like everyone knows what’s going on.” That’s not often the case, and the musicians have gotten through some sticky situations by keeping their composure.

The pair delighted Baldwin’s students with their performance and we hope to see them again in the future. If you're interested in their music, you can check out Beilis's YouTube Channel here, find him on Facebook: Matt Beilis, or follow him on Instagram/Twitter: @mattbeilis.