Map Interactive local COVID-19 tracker
Contact Us
Hackensack Daily Voice serves Hackensack, Maywood, Rochelle Park & South Hackensack
Return to your home site

Menu

Hackensack Daily Voice serves Hackensack, Maywood, Rochelle Park & South Hackensack

Nearby Towns

Neighbors

Blind Hackensack Prodigy, 14, Records 1st Album, Sets Major Gigs

"On my first trip to France, I really wanted to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We took the elevator for most of the way and walked all the way down. Such a great feeling! Today I am so sad," Matthew wrote on Nov. 14. Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo
Matthew, who played Newark's Symphony Hall with Melvin Davis and Rhoda Scott last night, recently recorded his first album, "Take A Break," at the Universal Music Production Center in Hackensack. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Anthony Sion
The Apollo is a special place for Matthew, who performed “Killer Joe” there during his first “Amateur Night at the Apollo: Child Stars of Tomorrow.” Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo
Matthew and jazz legend David Sanborn. Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A magical ride continues for an inspirational teenage multi-instrumentalist from Hackensack.

Matthew Whitaker, 14, who played Newark's Symphony Hall last night, recently recorded his first album, "Take A Break," at the Universal Music Production Center in Hackensack.

"I had a ball," he wrote to friends and fans, urging them to stay tuned for the release.

It's no mean feat for Matthew, who was born 3 months premature — at 1 pound, 11 ounces — and blind.

Next month, he returns to the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem for a special holiday show. In February Matthew plays at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. A month later come two Florida performances.

"What an AWESOME year this has been!," Matthew wrote last week. "I had the opportunity to return to Vienne France and perform in the Jazz a' Vienne Festival as a member of three generations of Hammond B3 organists."

He also played a Future Legends Kids event in Tokyo.

Other highlights included a THRIVE documentary with popular Louisiana artist Jon Batiste -- a multi-instrumentalist himself.

"But the best thing was to be at my sister Allison's college graduation," Matthew wrote.

Matthew's folks were amazed when their youngest child taught himself to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a miniature keyboard that his grandfather gave him when he was 3.

At 5, he was already studying classical music (Chopin and Bach are among his favorites). The next year it was drums, then bass and percussion.

The Apollo is a special place for Matthew, who performed “Killer Joe” there during his first children's amateur night there. He was also part of Stevie Wonder’s Legends Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Apollo’s 75th anniversary show.

“I love sounds… I hear music everywhere!” Matthew once said. “A ‘Circle of Sounds’ with me in the middle!”

Artistic influences include Wonder, as well as Jimmy McGriff, Johnny Hammond Smith, Charles Earland and drummers Otis Brown III, Otis Brown Jr. and Roy Haynes.

Locally, you can see Matthew the third Sunday of most months with the SonShinre Youth choir services at his home New Hope Baptist Church in Hackensack.

“I am a musician who happens to be blind,” he once said. “I have been blessed with a God-given gift. I pray that I can continue to be a blessing and inspiration to others.”

to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.

Welcome to

Hackensack Daily Voice!

Serves Hackensack, Maywood, Rochelle Park & South Hackensack

Hi! You've read our articles so we know you like our reporting. To keep reading please join our mailing list.

Get important news about your town as it happens.