Born: April 3, 2001 Primary Instrument: Organ, Hammond B3
Matthew Whitaker, a resident of Hackensack NJ, is truly a gifted musician. Matthew’s desire to play music began at 3 years old when his grandfather gave him a small Yamaha keyboard. After banging on it a few times we noticed Matt was playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” without anyone showing him how to do it. Born, April 3, 2001, 3 months premature at 1lb 11oz and blind, Matthew is the youngest child of Moses & May Whitaker.
At 5 years old Matthew was one of the youngest children to enroll in the Comprehensive Music Program for Young People in The Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School at Lighthouse International in New York City for blind/visually impaired where he began studying classical piano. The following year he enrolled in the drum class. There he studies classical piano, drums, percussion instruments, music technology, and is learning to read sheet music in Braille. He also attends the Harlem School of the Arts where he studies jazz styles for the piano and has attended jazz piano workshops taught by legendary pianist Barry Harris.
Internationally Matthew has performed for The Friends of the Certosa di Capri International Arts Festival in Capri, Italy; at The International Festival of Blind Musicians in Tetouan, Morocco and in Osaka, Japan as a guest artist at the Asia International Piano Festival by People with Disabilities. While in Japan, Matthew performed a solo concert at the U.S. Consul General's residence in Nishinomiya. Matthew has also appeared on various Japanese television programs including 'Yomiuri TV, 'NY Style' live report aired on 'Good Morning Japan' and 'World Wave Tonight'.
Matthew’s love of music, it's complex cords and melodies, especially in jazz, gave birth to his desire to learn to play the Hammond B3 organ which he is currently teaching himself to play. The Hammond B3 was the instrument of choice when Matthew was asked to be the opening performer at the Apollo Theater's Spring Gala 2011 where Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame and as a guest performer during the 20th & 21st Annual Jazz Loft Party Fundraiser hosted by the Jazz Foundation of America. Matthew was a winning participant in the “Amateur Night at the Apollo Child Stars of Tomorrow” segment and was invited back to participate in “Amateur Night’s Child Stars of Tomorrow Best of the Best”. He has performed on SummerStage in New York City's Central Park with vibraphonist Roy Ayers and Jazz Mafia Symphony; with Ozomatli and ‘The New York Pops’ Orchestra. He was the pianist during The African-American Legacy Project Youth (AALPY) Band concerts led by legendary bassist Reggie Workman and jazz vocalist Francina Connors. He can also be found playing the drums during worship service on 3rd Sundays for the SonShine Youth Choir, at New Hope Baptist Church of Hackensack, New Jersey, his home church.
Matthew has written several original compositions. His artistic influences are composers/musicians Dr Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland, Johnny Hammond Smith, Rhoda Scott, Vince Seneri; Stevie Wonder, D.D. Jackson, Barry Harris, Art Tatum, Ahmad Jamal, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea, Marcus Roberts, Jonathan Batiste, Chopin, Bach, and drummers Otis Brown III, Otis Brown Jr, Roy Haynes, T. S. Monk, Herlin Riley and Johnathan Blake.
Awards:Dream Tree Foundation Scholarship -2012 African American Heritage Parade Cultural Award (Next Generation Jazz Musician) - 2011 Irwin Widelitz Scholarship – 2011 Bergen County Division on Disability Services Salute to Champions Award - 2011 Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders Salute to Champions Certificate of Commendation Award - 2011 Certificate of Special Congressional Recongnition Salute to Champions Award - 2011 Bergen County Special Services School District Salute to Champions Award - 2011
We have just fallen in love with Matthew because of his love for music, his enthusiasm, his energy. Here is this very gifted child, but he’s not going into hip hop or rock and roll, he’s playing jazz music. Cephas Bowles – WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM President and Chief Executive Officer