Composing student, 22, is killed by truck

Composing student, 22, is killed by truck


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2021

Sam Matthews, a senior at the University of Idaho, died last weekend in a collision with a Freightliner on Highway 95.

Jennifer Jolley writes: ‘I found out my former Interlochen student Sam Matthews passed away yesterday morning from a car accident. I am heartbroken. Honestly. They were in my studio my second year teaching there.

‘While they were in my studio, Sam composed a very good cello quartet and an awesome choir piece that was performed by WYHC. They did good work. Sam ended up going to Peabody. I was so proud. Their music was branching out and sounding cooler by the minute. You all, Sam was taking RISKS, and it was paying off.’

From the funeral notice: Sam used their music as a form of self expression and to connect with others. Samson was a human rights and environmental activist and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Sam identified as a non-binary transgender individual and used they/them pronouns. Samson was considered a light and warmth by many.


  • Lex says:

    Hello Norman, I hope you don’t mind me pointing out that it would be respectful to correct your opening line to use the appropriate pronoun (i.e after *their* Mazda..). Many thanks.

    • Kenny says:

      It’s “my” pointing out, BTW (“possessive before a gerund.” My Mom, when I was 5 in 1964. I lived, so far.) “Mommy, what’s a gerund?”

  • bassooon says:

    Maybe you should revise your first sentence

  • J Barcelo says:

    Sorry to hear about the accident, sorry Sam died…

    Now…please stop giving into the mob using these “preferred pronouns”. English doesn’t work like that: Their and them are plural. Sam is not. Sam is singular. One person. Sam is a he or she or his/her. when you read the article your brain goes into conniptions trying to keep it straight – no pun intended. My native language, Mexican-Spanish, won’t allow this silly gender confusion. Why mess up English anymore than it already is? Don’t give in!

    • MusicBear88 says:

      Then it’s been “messed up” for centuries now according to the OED.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        What a load of political rubbish, conveniently fleshed out to justify Orwellian language.

        Next it will be some editor going through Shakespeare to revise the pronouns in his works. Footnotes could be used with an asterisk: *he/they, she/them ad nauseum. (Note: these personal choices don’t function as pronouns but as ADJECTIVES or ADVERBS)

        My own ‘pronoun’ could be: they (as in ‘they are sick of the narcissism).

        • True North says:

          You can’t even resist spewing your hateful vitriol on an obituary notice, of all places. What a sorry excuse for a human being you are.

    • Hmus says:

      the whole pronoun thing could have been avoided, viz:

      “‘While in my studio, Sam composed a very good cello quartet and an awesome choir piece that was performed by WYHC. Sam did good work, and ended up going to Peabody. I was so proud. Sam’s music was branching out and sounding cooler by the minute. You all, Sam was taking RISKS, and it was paying off.’

      • David A says:

        Why take the trouble to avoid, when it’s natural for them to use it? It’s a matter of showing respect. If my name is David but asked to be called Dave, everyone would do so out of respect, even if they preferred the name David over Dave. If I lived my life by Dave, then if someone called me David, I would feel misidentified. Simple as that.

        • John Borstlap says:

          A language is not an individual’s property. Respectfully using names as some people prefer, is something different from inventing new grammar and words that don’t work within a given language, because they disrupt existing grammar dynamics. New words – which bubble-up all the time, nothing wrong with it – will have to fit within the grammar dynamics to work effectively.

          I know this will be somewhat phrasmotic and compuntuous to some people, but it is the only way to avoid anaspeptic pericombolulations.

          • V. Lind says:

            Bravo! And I believe English is your second language — your TV choices are interesting!

          • David A says:

            Linguists will disagree with you. Many are in support of these changes, as historically, words and grammar that we deem “correct” nowadays stemmed from misuse, deliberate abbreviation, and conscious choice.

            For example, goodbye started with “god be with you”. Grammatically, we are supposed to say “It is I” instead of “It’s me”. I assume you make this “mistake”, along with countless others, without crying about the dismantling of “grammar dynamics”. In fact, there is no singular “grammar dynamics”.

            Clearly, your vision is tainted by political views, so let’s not pretend this is purely a matter of grammar for you! That would be another argument worth discussing.

          • N/A says:

            Your lack of respect for this deceased person is absolutely disgusting. Refusing to identify them in the way they want to be identified is so so selfish. Take a step back and have a think. See how easy it was for me to use they/them there? And see how the sentence still makes perfect sense?

    • Byrwec Ellison says:

      Only an inhuman jerk would use this tragic event as a platform to rant about pronouns.

    • BRUCEB says:

      Yeah, taking a tiny bit of trouble to show respect to anyone is just stupid.

      In that fellow-spirit, fuck off.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The pronoun problems arise because language is taken too literally and from a desire to label and fix things that better be fluid. For instance, in English, ‘man’ can mean a specific male, or an abstract indication of the human species like: ‘In the Renaissance, man became once more the center of the world’. To read in this an internalized suppression of women is nonsensical. Meaning arises from context. That simply is how English works. In French there is the same problem (and even more, since it has no neutral pronoun) – it’s either masculine or feminine and it is very often in an abstract sense or not referring to the gender of the person, like: ‘Sa majesté le Roi’ which is feminine and masculine in the same line about the same person, or ‘L’homme et son désir’. It just works that way. Same in Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portugese.

      If such linguistic processes are changed, this means that existing texts will loose meaning. Who is going to replace world literature?

      • V. Lind says:

        Probably the most famous hotel in Montreal is Le Reine Elizabeth. Your example is clear: “majesté” is a feminine noun in French, whether it is followed by “le roi” or “la reine.” Mine depends upon the reader grasping the implicit “hotel” (a masculine noun) in the name of the building. It used to confuse young students of French here in Canada, at least those outside Quebec.

        A simple reference to the woman after whom it is named would, of course, be “a Reine Elizabeth.”

        That paragraph really threw me until I remembered the new rules. While I would try to observe them if I had to, I find them absurd. And they have the same effect of halting me in reading something that egregious mis-spellings do in a printed book.

      • David A says:

        Have you not heard of Shakespeare? Moliere? Murasaki Shikibu? All writers from ancient times wrote differently in ways that are unintelligible for modern readers, yet the meaning of these texts are not “lost”. We study them as different systems of language. I don’t agree with your alarmism over “they” when we’ve seen greater change over the course of history.

    • N/A says:

      they/them can also be used for a singular person. For example, “somebody left their phone here.” It’s very easy.

    • N/A says:

      they/them/their etc can also be used singularly. For example, “somebody left their phone here.” It’s very easy.

  • Kenny says:

    No comment. “Gag me wid a spoon” leaps to mind.

  • MB says:

    Can’t we just live and let live. What does it matter?

  • Morgan says:

    Sad. A wasted talent regardless of pronouns.

  • Sidney Wayne says:

    What is the difference between a binary and non binary transgender individual?

    • BRUCEB says:

      As one of my professors used to say: “That’s an excellent question. Why don’t you do some research on it and give a short presentation to the class tomorrow?”

  • Dan says:

    The world will never hear his music.

  • Problem no. 1.
    Writers/commenters not treating a person with the basic respect of using the pronouns that they use for themselves.

    Problem no. 2.
    Webmaster not removing offensive, objectionable comments; or establishing a clear policy for commenters, showing same respect for transgender individuals as for cisgender individuals.

    Sara Davis Buechner
    transgender woman

    • V.Lind says:

      If you wish me to observe courtesies that you prefer and are insisting upon in the face of norms employed for their lifetimes by other people, then kindly do me the courtesy of not referring to me as “cis-gender.”

      I support respectful treatment of people regardless of their situations in life. I certainly respect the fact that you built a career under the identity with which you were born and had to rebuild it as a woman after your transition, not without some difficulties, but — happily, with some success.

      But I demand in return respect for others. The abuse of J.K. Rowling by an element of the community to which you belong is just the most egregious example of nastiness of a sort that makes the path you have undertaken even more difficult.

      The fact that a small percentage of the population is born with what is currently (and by you) referred to as “gender dysphoria” should surely not marginalise, nor seek to, the great majority that are not.

      You identified above as a “transgender woman.” Fair enough. I identify as a woman. End. Of. I don’t need any new trumped-up terms to define a situation that applies to over half the population of the world.

      • I wouldn’t expect you to observe any particular courtesies at all, Ms. Lind. I’ve never abused J.K. Rowling, nor read any of her writings. The term “cisgender” is defined by the OED as “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex”; and is commonly used as the antonym of “transgender.” I was motivated to write on behalf of Sam Matthews, in terms and for principles which I believe they would support and appreciate. And if the fact of people like myself existing as part of the human diaspora upsets you so much, I’d suggest attending some trans support groups to meet a few folks who could broaden your understanding and empathy. All best and Happy U.S. Thanksgiving from Sara Davis Buechner.

        • V.Lind says:

          You do not seem to have read me very carefully, Ms. Buechner. I advocate respect for people, whatever their situation, quite explicitly. And I certainly did not accuse you of in any way abusing J.K. Rowling — I specifically referred to “an element” of the trans community.

          You seem to operate mostly in North America, so perhaps you are unaware of the vitriol that has been directed at her because she objected to someone from the trans community referring to what you prefer to call “cis-gender women” as “people who menstruate.” There is a raging debate in the UK between trans extremists and “cis” women.

          I am not remotely upset by people like you existing as part of the human diaspora. Nor does your situation particularly interest me, at least not to the point of attending groups to hear their discussions. In any case, where I live I would be hard pressed to find any such group.

          And you do seem to expect the courtesy of people like me and some others here of breaking the habit of a lifetime spent as people professionally devoted to language, as writers, editors, teachers and even just as readers by observing a newly imposed pronoun usage that flies in the face of grammatical logic.

          As my opening sentence in my first post implied, I would be prepared, even if reluctantly, to offer this courtesy as long as it was part of a mutual respect, which a small but extremely vocal and aggressive part of the trans community has been withholding from anyone who does not jump to their demands.

          There are still some issues, such as competitive sport participation, especially at elite levels, and certain problems in vulnerable housing, such as prisons or shelters, that need to be resolved. So are questions regarding the transition of very young people, some of whom are merely experiencing uncertainties as to their identity that are not unknown to the majority that would never consider such drastic alterations. Those resolutions require mutual “understanding and empathy,” not just a craven caving in by the majority to demands by people who do not seem to accept the reservations of others as subjects for discussion, let alone negotiation.

          If you cannot admit that the emergence of a debate on trans issues is something relatively new — perhaps overdue, and I would hope we have learned something from the removal of legal barriers faced by gay people for far too long — then it is unlikely that there will be much of either understanding nor empathy in this ongoing review of societal behaviours.

          That admission begins with appreciating that most of us grew up in a world where there were men and women, hes and shes, M and F, and changing the majority to accommodate a minority is usually a slow process. I would still argue for mutual respect.

    • Darrell says:

      As usual, bigoted progressives asking for censorship and advancing new forms of social tyranny. If you want censored content, you already have YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc.

  • David says:

    Can we hear some of their music?