The sound of sight

Matthew Olshefski is the
Matthew Olshefski is the "shirtless violinist"
The Shirtless Violinist and the Blind Artist

Matthew Olshefski and Paul Castle are on a unique journey. Matthew, known as the Shirtless Violinist and Paul, coined as the Blind Artist, are filled with passion, not only for one another, but also their outstanding artistry. A fully-clothed musician up until recently, Matthew was caught by Paul rehearsing without a shirt on one day, and Paul, in spite of a rare diagnosis that compromises his sight, had a crystal clear vision for a new opportunity.

Now, taking social media by storm with a vibrant following of supportive fans and collaborative artists, Matthew and Paul share their captivating story. This duo is one you won’t want to miss a real opportunity to connect with.

Olshefski laughs about subscribing to Grindr Extra
Matthew Olshefski and Paul Castle
Matthew Olshefski and Paul Castle

Meeting in the most wholesome, traditional of ways, Matthew and Paul connected on Grindr. Paul mentions that he didn’t use the app to hook up, he was serious about love. But Matthew, living in the middle of nowhere, needed to invest a little more energy into his search for a relationship, and laughs about subscribing to Grindr Extra. This investment paid off since it reached as far as Canada, where Paul was from.

Paul, not quite interested in giving Matthew, a headless torso of sorts, the time of day; Matthew, on the other hand, was intrigued by Paul’s connected Instagram profile. “I saw Paul’s Instagram and saw that he was legally blind. I thought that was interesting! He ate healthy, ran a marathon, was an artist, and I was really impressed!”

Paul laughs, “I still am legally blind! By the way, I had to eat healthy, run a marathon, and be a blind visual artist to catch his eye. Evidently all it took for me were good pecs!” All jokes aside, they eventually decided to meet. Despite coming from different countries, they instantly connected.

Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski
Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski

For those readers looking for love, the couple offered this, “All you need to do is live near the Canadian border, get the Grindr Extra, and make sure you have a passport with global entry.”

Olshefski grew up around music

Matthew was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and grew up in Kansas City. Studying music since age three, playing the violin was a part of his DNA very early on, a decision he remembers making himself. With extraordinary devotion and discipline, he practiced his music daily. Later, when siblings came along, they learned alongside of him, and the three played together often. Matthew adds, “My siblings grew up around my music, they followed suit, it was just the thing to do.”

He studied for a short time at a college level and majored in Violin Performance. Matthew eventually left school to support his family, pursuing paid orchestral positions along the way. Influenced by Itzhak Perlman and Pavarotti, Matthew melts when listening to them, and integrates their influence into his musical interpretations.

Castle has always been interested in visual arts
Paul Castle in an art gallery
Paul Castle in an art gallery

Paul, years before being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, was always interested in visual arts. Heavily influenced by Disney movies, much of Paul’s art is character-driven, and he aspired to be a Disney animator one day. Often studying the life of Walt Disney, Paul was taken by the history of Disney films.

In high school, he transitioned from sketching and drawing into painting, his medium of choice. After his diagnosis, Paul initially gave up his dreams of visual arts and majored in English Literature. But despite his blindness, he decided not to give up on his dreams of being an artist. “My hobby became my career,” Paul says, gleaming. Paul also said, “My art is a series of little moments that are a part of a bigger storyline. I may never make a movie because I’m losing my sight, but I’m telling stories, sparking the imagination to create a movie in the minds of people who look at my art.

I gave up on this dream of filmmaking until I met Matthew. Through Matthew’s passion for music and the adventure that became the Shirtless Violinist, I realized I could achieve this dream.”

Matthew Olshefski is the "shirtless violinist"
Matthew Olshefski is the “shirtless violinist”

Matthew became the Shirtless Violinist reluctantly. One hot summer day, Paul discovered Matthew practicing without a shirt on in their small apartment. Paul insisted that they needed to turn this into something. Matthew was always body conscious. He had a conservative upbringing and always swam with a shirt on. In the beginning of their recording journey, Matthew refused to keep his shirt off if people were around and the idea of jumping behind a bush if a car drove by wasn’t unheard of.

This shyness didn’t last long. After their first video, several reporters wrote about the piece, including and a publication from as far as Spain. It was the beginning. featured Matthew regularly; however, he wasn’t so well received by the classical community. The couple describes the commentary from this particular audience as… well… “Vitriolic.” This didn’t stop them, not many obstacles stopped them from pursuing their arts.

Paul Castle
Paul Castle

Paul, while living with dimming sight and absence of peripheral vision, pushes into his artwork with fury. Once sitting with an ophthalmologist, seeking more information about his condition, Paul listened to the professional suggest he merely eat more carrots to help strengthen his vision. With carrots and a paintbrush by his side, Paul realized at this moment that he’d have to walk much of this journey by the influence of his own will and heart’s desire. Having planned on going to film school, he determined it wasn’t going to work for him. He admits that he gave up on that dream.

The blind artist is born

Paul decided to paint even while nearing total blindness. He intends to continue painting, creating, and inspiring others with the artist’s heart that beats within him.

A music teacher, Matthew appreciates the anonymity of teaching outside of developing his social media presence, as his students don’t often realize he’s the Shirtless Violinist. He gives much credit to his strong influence in social media, and excitedly shares that it has enhanced his journey. And he interacts with his fans daily. His followers fuel Matthew’s platform by helping to sponsor and support him. He loves to receive correspondence from fans. Matthew affectionately calls his fan base his “Fiddlers.” They write to him to share their coming out stories.

Paul, an artist that mainly embraces bold colors in his paintings, was recently featured in Bear World magazine highlighting his art.

Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski
The mermaid photo shoot with Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski

The couple credits each other’s giftedness as a means for strengthening their artistry. With Matthew’s passion for making YouTube videos, and Paul’s passion for creating captivating storylines for those videos, each man’s talent complements one another.

Matthew will rehearse while Paul paints

Paul is motivated daily by Matthew’s discipline for practice. Discipline has helped Paul see what devotion and consistency can do to refine his painting. They spend time together that they call “Art Time.” Matthew will rehearse while Paul paints. It’s poetic that the love of Paul’s life can give him a sense of sight, fueling his passions, with the beautiful gift of music.

Paul currently works on a new art series of LGBTQ-centric characters. The pieces include an engaging storyline. Be on the lookout for that series. He intends to create a hardcover book in the future. Additionally, he will have a three-month installation at an art gallery in Seattle this summer.

Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski
Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefski

Paul will soon pursue a seeing eye dog, and the couple looks forward to inviting this type of third companion into their relationship. “Carrot” might be a suitable name.

Matthew is currently working on some new, dynamic YouTube videos, and will be collaborating with some other fun, shirtless musicians this June. As creative activists, representing excellence in the LGBTQ community is very important to the couple amid a precarious political climate. Specifically, they referenced the Trans community and their recent struggles. Trans rights have been impressed upon the couple’s hearts and minds. They hope that their music and artwork can bring some degree of peace and joy to the community.

You can help support Matthew and Paul on Patreon, sponsoring their videos and connecting more intimately with the couple. And you can find Matthew’s music on iTunes by searching “Shirtless Violinist.”

Johnny Walsh is Out In Jersey’s special features editor. He is a pianist, writer, and entrepreneur who has performed in over 20 states and two countries. Johnny is passionate about human rights, creativity, and the arts, and longs for the sentiment of social justice to flow through his writing.