Isaacs: sports star, pianist, valedictorian

Matthew Isaacs has studied jazz piano focusing on a Neo-Soul style that fuses smooth jazz with contemporary rhythm and blues. (Katherine Green) Matthew Isaacs has studied jazz piano focusing on a Neo-Soul style that fuses smooth jazz with contemporary rhythm and blues. (Katherine Green)

Katherine Green
Sports Reporter

Volleyball star. Jazz pianist. Singing sensation.

There are two sides to every coin, but when it comes to fifth-year volleyball player Matthew Isaacs there seems to be three; and likely more.

This Hawks’ athletic powerhouse is Humber’s own jack-of-all-trades. The entire athletic community honoured the young man who excels at it all at this year’s awards banquet held on Thursday.

Isaacs will end his time at Humber by addressing his teammates, fellow varsity athletes, and the coaches and staff that shaped his volleyball career as the 2014-15 Athletics Valedictorian.

Head coach Wayne Wilkins recruited Isaacs to play for Humber five years ago. Wilkins’ confidence in the then 18-year-old novice who had an “intrinsic fire” and exceptional athletic ability has clearly paid off.

“He is athletic, has a great jump, and long arms. His vision and ability to see the play as it develops has been a strength for him,” said Wilkins.

Isaacs’ long list of athletic accomplishments and accolades made him a strong candidate for this year’s golden award.

He has garnered two first team all-star awards and a second team nod since being named rookie of the year in 2010. The 6’4 middle hitter has also been a vital component of a team that captured two provincial golds, a provincial silver, a national fourth place finish, and a national bronze medal during his time at Humber.

The on-court success experienced by Isaacs is matched by his wealth of talent off the court. His musical prowess and beloved character traits add extra dimension that propelled Isaacs to the top of the short list.

Isaacs has mastered the ability to surprise peers and colleagues at every turn.

His passion for smooth rhythm and blues fuelled the exceptional affinity for the piano, but even his music teacher Paul Grecco was taken aback by the 18-year-old unintentionally revealed his third gift.

The towering young athlete has a voice, too.

“One day we were working on the piano and I didn’t realize at first he was singing,” said Grecco. “He started to sing a tune and do a little vocal thing and I remember thinking how great of a voice he had. It was such a surprise.”
Grecco speaks to the privilege of instructing Isaacs; the work never being laborious.

“We used to have a great laugh,” he said. “It was very enjoyable time to work on the piano hard for an hour, but while still cracking jokes.”

These sentiments are shared at Humber Athletics.

“I struggle with the question of how to describe someone in one word, but with Isaacs I don’t,” Wilkins said. “The one word that comes to mind when I think about Matt Isaacs is authentic. What you see is what you get.”

Isaacs’ passions are not contending with one another, but grant him two different avenues to perform.

The awards night program is the most appropriate indication of his wealth of talent. Isaacs was the house entertainment for the evening, singing Motown oldies to the accompaniment of teammate John Obi’s guitar, for all the arriving attendees. Later in the evening he closed the ceremony by accepting the Valedictorian award and delivering his speech.

It is no surprise this animated character eagerly awaits his moment on stage, another opportunity to perform and flex yet another muscle.

“This is my first speech ever. But interestingly enough I’ve always wanted to get into motivational speaking. I’m not nervous, just excited,” said Isaacs.

“I’m sure it’s been done before, but I want to compare myself to a Hawk. It’s now my time to leave the nest and let my rookies take their journey.”

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