You may know Matthew Olshefski as a confident violinist with a ton of social media followers.
But what you might not know is that before he was the Shirtless Violinist, he grew up in a cult.
For the first 12 years of his life, Olshefski says he grew up in a loving household with a mother, father and two younger siblings.
But as soon as he became a teen, the family joined a religious homeschool cult.
Forced to join a homophobic homeschool cult
His parents heard about the charismatic Christian leader Bill Gothard, and wanted to join.
‘[Gothard’s] teachings were really built around an authority structure,’ he said to I’m From Driftwood.
‘You were protected by God if you were under the authority that was ordained by him. For Bill Gothard that was the father of the home… you were protected if you were obedient.’
Every teaching Olshefski had was from a ‘wisdom booklet’ and they were all based in the Bible.
‘I was grappling with my sexuality at a time we were immersed in this cult with very strong feelings on homosexuality,’ Olshefski said.
He said he remembered reading a booklet on Sodom and Gommorah and was horrified by the illustrations showed God condemning the people.
The family also dressed in navy and white and attended more conferences.
Olshefski’s mother and father eventually got divorced, and his mother got more entrenched.
She decided to send her three children to a silent retreat.
There, Olshefski journaled. It was on this trip that he finally addressed his sexuality head on.
He came back with the journal and hid it in his room. He then went to go across the state in New Mexico for a violin concert.
While he was staying with hosts, he then got a phone call from his mom.
‘I got the call, and she said: “I discovered your journal and I’ve read it”. She had read the most personal thing I’d ever written.
When Olshefski returned home, the two argued and fought for several weeks.
Forced to go to ‘gay cure’ therapy
‘She really felt I had deceived her…she also wanted me to go to reparative therapy,’ Olshefski said.
‘I remember walking through those doors to the reparative therapy conference… I realized everyone there was repressed.’
He added: ‘They all sounded depressed. They all sounded not OK. You basically had to do your best to suppress it and not live it.’
On Olshefski’s return, he fought with his mother again. He sneaked out of his window, put a few items in his car, and fled.
Olshefski said: ‘While the next few years was slow and painful, I just wanted to be as healthy as possible.’