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CBVI Student Chosen 2018 Young Futurist
Category: Arts and Culture
Hometown: Hackensack, N.J.
Education: Manhattan School of Music, Emerson Junior-Senior High School
It’s hard to not compare musical prodigy Matthew Whitaker to legendary musician Stevie Wonder. Matthew, who taught himself to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at just 3 years old and plays the piano effortlessly and with so much soul, is also blind.
“I don’t let my blindness stop me,” he told NorthJersey.com. “I want to be a professional musician. I want to have more albums out.”
In March 2017, Matthew released his first album, Outta the Box, for which he wrote more than half of the songs himself. He has his own publishing company, has traveled to Europe, the Middle East and Asia on tour, and has earned sponsorship deals with Yamaha and Hammond. Matthew also shares his talent with his local community in Hackensack, N.J., by playing the organ at New Hope Baptist Church.
The musical prodigy has also played at the Apollo Theater multiple times—to great success. He won the “Stars of Tomorrow” competition at the Apollo when he was 9 years old, and a year later, he opened for Stevie Wonder, who gave him one of his harmonicas. In December 2016, he won Showtime at the Apollo. Matthew also plays the drums, bass and melodica and is learning to play the guitar.
With so much natural musical talent, Matthew hopes to one day start his own band—one in which he plays all of the instruments himself.
“I’ll call it the Matthew Whitaker One-Man Band,” he told The Star-Ledger of New Jersey. “I like to be the one in charge.”