Matthew Farmer Cruises Into New Career, New Spotlight

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By Rigel Herman If you were lucky enough to cruise the Mediterranean or the Caribbean on a Celebrity Cruise ship between 2006 and 2011, chances are you were entertained by the vocal stylings of West Palm Beach native Matthew Farmer. Farmer signed seven contracts during his five years with Celebrity Cruises and was a premier entertainment vocalist, performing musical showcases to large audiences several nights a week. Farmer has been busy in the performing arts world his entire life. Handsome, 34 years old and currently the Program and Facilities Manager of Delray Beach’s Arts Garage, Farmer is outgoing and highly social. Not surprisingly, Farmer remembers as a child “headlining” his parent’s dinner parties. “It was custom that at the end of the evening, I put on some sort of show for them,” Farmer says. At age 5, he began performing at the former Royal Palm Dinner Theatre in Boca Raton. He was cast as a dwarf in “Snow White and The Seven Dwarves,” along with a young AJ McLean who would later become a member of The Backstreet Boys. Farmer was encouraged by his mother, who also took the stage from time to time and was not a pushy stage-mother type. Farmer recalls fondly acting as an activity he enjoyed on the weekends and as a bonding experience for him, his mother and brother. “It was something to do and it exposed us to the arts,” Farmer says. During middle school, Farmer discovered his voice and was singing in his church choir. He attended Catholic school and was all set to go to public high school. The summer before his freshman year, however, his home life changed dramatically. His parents were going through a divorce and his grandmother passed away. Losing his grandmother impacted him tremendously, as she was his cultural touch-stone, having taught him about history, l i t e r a t u r e and art. As a reaction to these changes, Farmer applied to summer camp at The Palm Beach County School of the Arts (now Dreyfoos School of the Arts) and was accepted. He then discovered that his acceptance extended to his attending high school there, which he did as a Vocal Music major. It was during these years that Farmer developed his vocal techniques in a classical style. He toured Europe with the School of the Arts Singers and excelled as a vocal talent. Farmer received many collegiate offers following high school, including a full scholarship to the University of Miami but he fell in love with, and attended, Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, due to his connection to choral music. Like many artists, Farmer was striving for New York City and transferred to NYU to attend their department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at the School of Education. Finding himself with what he calls “the New York City blues,” Farmer left NYU to come back home to South Florida. “I was so different during that time in New York than I am now. I never went out. I was in bed by 10. I was closed off from being social, trying to find my place. I was lonely,” says Farmer. Back in Florida, Farmer began to see opportunities in multiple facets of the performing arts, first landing a gig as the Artistic Coordinator for The Milagro Center. However, his vocal talent took him in an entirely different direction when he became a member of the boy band, 5th Ring. 5th Ring was signed by Universal Records and released the single, “Can’t Say,” which is still available on Amazon, “for one cent,” Farmer says and laughs. Opening for artists like Jessica Simpson and Lil’ Kim and getting play on the radio station Power 96 Miami, Farmer was on his way to Justin Timberlake-like fame, even touring with 5th Ring in Stockholm. Unfortunately after 9/11, his management team lost funding and 5th Ring split up. None of this seems to bother the upbeat Farmer, though, retrospectively. On the contrary, he is satisfied with what life and talents have given him. After working as the Musical Choral Director of St. Thomas More church in Boynton Beach, Farmer missed performing and set out for the sea with Celebrity Cruises. In March, 2011, Farmer concluded his cruise-ship career and returned to dry land in Delray Beach. He read an article about Aloyna Ushe, the Executive Director of Arts Garage, and felt like he had found a kindred spirit in ambition for the artistic community in Delray. After meeting Ushe, a match had been made and Farmer was given his current title. As the Program and Facilities Manager, Farmer is responsible for managing the overall space of Arts Garage, designing in-house events, curating the gallery, collaborating with the artists scheduled to perform on sets and equipment, as well as managing contracts and other administrative tasks. Farmer also continues to perform. He sings as a guest at Unity Church in Delray and sings impromptu numbers with other acts at Arts Garage. This month, however, Farmer will channel his passion for voice and hold a concert at Arts Garage titled, “From Stage to Screen: Matthew Farmer in Concert.” The show will feature Farmer singing songs from memorable movies like “Splash” and “Superman,” along with Broadway hits “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” Patrons can expect to be entertained with clips of their favorite scenes shown in conjunction with Farmer’s vocal performance. Farmer says that even though he’s a perfectionist, he doesn’t get nervous butterflies before a show, especially in Delray Beach, where Farmer feels he fits nicely. “I love the people, the vibe, the culture, the boutique beach town that Delray is. Here I can be true to Delray while being true as an artist, musician…I feel a part of it.” “From Stage to Screen: Matthew Farmer in Concert” is May 25th at 7:30pm. Interested? Go to www.artsgarage.org to purchase tickets or call 561.450.6357. Tickets are $15-$25 before the show and $20-$30 at the door.