Matthew Whitaker was a 15 year-old keyboardist who had generated serious industry buzz, when he performed at the 2017 John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival. Since then he has recorded three chart topping albums and become a sought after composer and arranger. Matthew Whitaker returns to the Coltrane Jazz Fest on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023.
His love for playing music first began at the age of 3 after his grandfather gave him a small Yamaha keyboard. At 9, Matthew Whitaker began teaching himself how to play the Hammond B3 organ. Four years later, he became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond in its 80+ year history. He was also named a Yamaha Artist at 15, becoming the youngest musician to join the stellar group of jazz pianists.
Currently in his third year in the Jazz Studies program at The Juilliard School, New York City, Matthew Whitaker previously studied classical piano and drums at The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School, also located in NYC. It is the only community music school for the blind and visually impaired in the US. 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, NJ. In addition, Matthew attended the Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Jazz Program.
He has performed with an array of outstanding musicians including Jon Batiste, Ray Chew, Christian McBride, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Rhoda Scott, Cameron Carpenter, Regina Carter, Jason Moran and, Marc Cary to name a few.
Matthew Whitaker’s CREATIVE EXPANSION
The education and the playing experience added to Matthew Whitaker’s superior natural abilities produced successive critically acclaimed albums; Outta the Box, released in 2017, Now Hear This, a 2019 release and his latest, released in 2022 — Connections. In a review published in Downbeat Magazine, Frank Alkyer wrote, “We’ve been listening to Whitaker take our breath away with all of the promise he showed on the first two albums. This one takes him a full leap forward. The fleetness of finger, the touch and taste, the grit and grime when he needs it, the lightness and airiness when it’s called upon — Whitaker has it all.”
Moving into composing and film scoring, Matthew Whitaker has earned accolades there too. He won the ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award for his original compositions “Emotions & Underground!” ASCAP is the Association of Songwriters, Composers and Publishers. The Herb Albert Young Composers Awards is granted annually to encourage talented young jazz composers during the earliest stages of their careers. Whitaker won the award twice, back-to-back, in 2019 and 2020.