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Lots of musicians start young, but pianist Matthew Whitaker started really young. 

“I’ve been playing since I was three, when I taught myself ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on a small keyboard my grandfather gave to me,” Whitaker told the Huffington Post. “Nobody showed me. When I turned five, I started piano lessons.”

Whitaker took to the instrument immediately. Born three months premature and blind, he’s developed a prowess on both the piano and the Hammond B3 that has propelled him on a fantastic journey – all before his eighteenth birthday. He’s shared stages all around the world with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Jon Batiste, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Ray Chew, and Christian McBride; wowed audiences on The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and took home the first-place prize on Fox’s revival of Showtime at the Apollo – something of a return performance there, as his big break took place at the legendary Harlem venue, when he won a talent contest at the tender age of nine. 

Dedicating himself to musical learning, Whitaker is currently studying classical piano and drums at The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School of the Lighthouse Guild in New York City, the only community music school for the blind and visually impaired in the U.S. He also attends the Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Jazz Program, in addition to performing throughout the United States and all around the world. 

In 2017, Whitaker released his debut album, Out of the Box, in conjunction with the Jazz Foundation of America. Featuring four covers and six originals, the album introduces Whitaker as a major young force in jazz music. You can hear traces of Whitaker’s influences – including Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, and Oscar Peterson – in his expressive playing, but also a melodic maturity that seems at odds with his youthful age. “What I enjoy best is playing music,” he says. “I am a musician who happens to be blind…I have been blessed with a God-given gift and my prayer is that I can continue to be a blessing and inspiration to others.”