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NJ Jazz Prodigy’s Musical Talents An Inspiration To Younger Generations

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Jazz prodigy Matthew Whitaker is helping get younger generations interested in music during Jazz Appreciation Month. (Credit: CBS 2)

Jazz prodigy Matthew Whitaker is helping get younger generations interested in music during Jazz Appreciation Month. (Credit: CBS 2)

NEWARK, N.J. (CBS 2) — Several local radio stations are taking part in Jazz Appreciation Month, hoping to teach younger generations to appreciate the sweet sounds of jazz.

CBS 2’s Magee Hickey met one young man who is inspiring others with his musical talents.

Matthew Whitaker eats, sleeps and breathes jazz. As a special birthday treat for the visually impaired 10-year-old from Hackensack, his parents brought him to WBGO to play the Newark jazz station’s rare Hammond organ.

“I like the way it sounds,” Whitaker said. “I like the harmonies, and I can play whatever I want with jazz.”

Matthew started playing jazz at the age of three, when he was given a keyboard and just plunked out tunes on his own. Since then, he’s been studying at the Lighthouse in Manhattan and Harlem School of the Arts.

“It allows him the opportunity to express himself, something he has found that he’s passionate about,” his mother, May Whitaker, said. “He just loves to express himself and be creative.”

“He is a musician who happens to be blind, not a blind musician,” father Moses Whitaker said.

On WBGO’s 32nd birthday, it was a double birthday treat meant to spread the love of jazz to the next generation.

“This is amazing, that this young man with a disability, he is able to pick up the music with all its subtleties,” WBGO President Cephas Bowles said.

Matthew particularly loves the music of Dr. Lonnie Smith.

There will be a series of free concers for kids in Newark, Maplewood and Montclair to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month.

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