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Apollo Theater performance for talented Bergen 12-year-old Matthew Whitaker

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

SHOUT OUT: Young multi-instrumentalist Matthew Whitaker’s miracle story continues when the Hackensack youngster returns to the Apollo Theatre tonight, this time as a special guest.

Three weeks ago, Matthew celebrated his 12th birthday. It was an important milestone for the talented prodigy from Hackensack, who was born 3 months premature — at 1 pound/11 ounces — and blind.

“I love sounds… the sound of banging pots, moving cars, airplanes, subways, buses, people walking, talking…the sound of jackhammers, tapping on a table, stomping of feet … copy machines, printers.  I hear music everywhere!” he once said. “A ‘Circle of Sounds’ with me in the middle!”

Matthew was three when his grandfather gave him a miniature Yamaha keyboard. His folks say they were amazed when their youngest child taught himself to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

He was already studying classical music at Lighthouse International music school in New York City by the time he was five (Matthew loves Chopin and Bach). The next year it was drums.

He’s also learned to play bass and percussion instruments.

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.” He also played there during Stevie Wonder’s Apollo Legends Hall of Fame induction ceremony two years ago and at the Apollo’s 75th anniversary show.

Soon after, Matthew was performing at SummerStage in Central Park with Ayers and the Jazz Mafia Symphony.

For someone so young, his resume is staggering: Matthew has played at New York’s famous Riverside Church and the Harlem Opera Theater, and was among the performers at the Apollo’s 75th anniversary show in 2009.

CHECK OUT MATTHEW’S PERFORMANCE OF A JAZZ/POP CLASSIC:

His artistic influences include Wonder, of course, as well as Jimmy McGriff, Johnny Hammond Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland, and drummers Otis Brown III, Otis Brown Jr. and Roy Haynes.

Matthew, who earlier this year conducted a solo performance before the UN Youth Assembly at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, keeps a busy schedule, playing clubs and concerts.

You can see him perform for free – on the third Sunday of every month with the SonShinre Youth choir during worship services at New Hope Baptist Church, his home 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.”

WHAT: Matthew Whitaker at the Apollo
WHERE: The Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street
WHEN: 7:30 tonight
INFO: (800) 745-3000

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