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NLS 90th Anniversary Virtual Concert with Matthew Whitaker

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, will kick off its 90th anniversary celebration with a free virtual concert by jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday, March 3, at 8:00 p.m. (EST)—and you’re invited! The event will be streamed on the Library’s YouTube page, and will be available on that platform for two years.

Matthew Whitaker. Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff. https://www.matthewwhitaker.net/epk?pgid=j8a2ivy5-d2be6ae1-0a07-4f28-ada9-ca12e3d62a75

Born in 2001 in Hackensack, N.J. at 24 weeks, Matthew weighed 1 pound 11 ounces. His parents were told he had less than a 50% chance of survival. One of the many complications he faced was retinopathy of prematurity, a disease that can lead to blindness. After several surgical procedures as a toddler, his vision could not be saved.

However, his grandfather gave Matthew a small Yamaha keyboard, and he almost immediately began harmonizing nursery rhymes. He would eventually be endorsed by Hammond organs at age 12—the youngest person ever to be endorsed by Hammond.

At age 10, Whitaker was the opening performer for Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Hall of Fame. While many people have tried to make the inevitable comparison to Wonder, Whitaker simply said in a 2018 interview, “There’s only one Stevie.” (Stevie Wonder was the 2009 recipient of the Library’s Gershwin Prize).

A patron of NLS since the age of 13, he studied classical piano and drums at the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg (FMDG) Music School in New York City, and learned to read braille music. “I learned the basics of that for playing classical music, because there’s not much braille music available for other styles of music. I do learn music by ear, but if the music is really challenging I check it by the braille to be sure,” Matthew stated in a 2020 interview.

Matthew Whitaker. Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff. https://www.matthewwhitaker.net/epk?pgid=j8a2ivy5-8667930e-11fd-4110-b60a-3fcd23773fc8

He also studied at The Harlem School of the Arts, and was a member of both the Jazz House Big Band and the Organ Messengers at Jazz House Kids in Montclair, N.J.  Matthew attended the Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Jazz Program and is currently a second-year student in the jazz studies program at Juilliard in New York City, studying with jazz composer/pianist Frank Kimbrough.

He won the ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards for 2019 and 2020 and has been featured on stages around the world and on TV shows including Ellen and NBC’s Today. In a story on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes neuroscientists discussed how Whitaker’s brain is stimulated by music—so much so that his visual cortex lights up when he plays.

Karen Keninger, the Director of NLS, will conduct an interview with Whitaker, which will also be available on the Library’s YouTube page starting at 8:00 a.m. (EST) on March 3.

Direct links to each event will be made available on Tuesday, March 2. For this and other information, follow NLS on Facebook or check out the Library of Congress Events page or the NLS Music Notes blog.

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: W (Part 2 – Whitaker, Matthew)

For this week’s feature on American Composers and Musicians, we will look at the remarkable life and work of jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker. He will perform a free virtual concert, which will begin streaming on the Library’s YouTube page on Wednesday, March 3, at 8:00 p.m.

Virtual Concert: Jazz Pianist Matthew Whitaker

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, will kick off its 90th anniversary celebration with a free virtual concert by jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday, March 3, at 8:00 p.m. (EST), and you’re invited!

New BARD Additions: October 2020

The NLS Music Section is proud to announce our newest additions to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) for the month of October!

A Community Music School for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 2

Continued from last week. Part 2 My second day at the school, which was a Saturday, was spent observing private lessons and group classes. Saturday at the school is mostly reserved for the youth programs. I was eager to attend as many lessons as possible and what I saw was fascinating and memorable. I attended […]

A Community Music School for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 1

The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School train the teachers on accessible music technology and braille music so that they are better equipped to work with students with vision loss.

New BARD Additions: October 2018

This is a guest post from Hannah Noel, a West Coast native currently living in North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, where she earned her MSLS and focused her studies on archival work in an arts and museum-specific context. She is interning at NLS at the […]

Digitizing Braille Music Summer 2018

The digitization project at the NLS marches on and currently it is in the hands of a summer intern! This is a guest post from Hannah Noel, a West Coast native currently living in North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, where she earned her […]

Digitizing Braille Music 2018

This is our fourth blog on the digitization of braille music. So, what is new with this project? First, we are boosting our production by outsourcing the proofreading of scores scanned using Optical Braille Recognition (OBR). Our braille music specialist Gilbert Busch continues to review all the scans completed on DotScan so we can provide […]