March 2018: Lasting legacy ensures Matthew’s memory lives on

Our former student, Matthew Densfield, a talented jazz drummer who tragically died aged 20, has left a lasting legacy to inspire future musicians.

Matthew had DiGeorge Syndrome and March 21 2017 he had a fifth heart operation, just three days after he had celebrated his birthday at the Manchester Royal Infirmary surrounded by his flatmates from Leeds College of Music where he had begun his BA Hons degree in Modern Jazz. Matthew was looking forward to becoming a professional musician and composer.

Unfortunately, there were complications with the operation and Matthew tragically died seven days later. He will be remembered at a celebration concert at Haslingden High School’s Sixth Form Centre on April 14 at 7.30pm.

The concert will raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides accommodation for families whose relatives are in hospital.

Since his passing, his family, friends and musicians have raised £5,674, which has funded a room at the Ronald McDonald house at the hospital. The door has a plaque bearing his name with a picture of a drum and drumsticks.

In the reception of Leeds College of Music there is also a plaque remembering Matthew, which describes him as an ‘inspiration to others’.

Trophies in his name are now presented at Rochdale Festival of Performing Arts for ‘best percussionist’ and at his former school for ‘contribution to the music department’.

These lasting tributes are a great source of comfort for his parents David and Susan, and sister Holly.

Susan said: “We have had a lot of support from family and friends who have been with us throughout his life.

“At his funeral at St Thomas’ Church in Helmshore, 380 people came, there was standing room only and people were outside the building.

“Having these legacies keeps Matthew’s memory alive for us and has helped us to cope with what has happened. He was always such a positive and inspirational person.”

Matthew had his first heart operation at 10 days old, another at 18 months, a further operation aged 11 and when he was 16 he had an adult size mechanical aortic valve fitted.

At 14 he passed his Grade 8 practical music exam with distinction and he won a Robert Lewin Scholarship, which paid for professional drumming lessons from Dave Hassell at the Royal Northern College of Music.

After GCSEs, he went into our Sixth Form to study A level and BTEC Music as well as IT and stayed on for an extra year to complete his Grade 5 Music theory and English GCSE.

Susan said: “His dad is a drummer and Matthew had his first go at playing the drums at 18 months and his own proper drum kit at three. He played his first gig aged four when he played ‘Sex Bomb’ and ‘Smooth’ at the DiGeorge Conference in Northampton.

“He was so proud to get a place at Leeds and even played at The Sela Bar on Freshers’ Week.

“He had modern jazz drumsticks imported from America because they were the best for playing his style of music.”

The syndrome affected Matthew’s ability to learn in a variety of ways, but Susan praised the help he received from the Learning Support Unit at Haslingden High School.

An Inspirational Garden, which will be outside the Learning Support Unit, is being created at Easter featuring a piano path, a bench with a stave, notes and treble clef, a bass drum birdbath and other instruments made into garden furniture.

Susan added: “Matthew’s memory will hopefully inspire others to achieve.”