By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Carnegie Hall is a huge concert hall in Manhattan, New York City that opens its doors to both classical and mainstream music lovers. Designed by architect William Burnet Tuthill in 1891, Carnegie is what you call a classy, upscale joint! So, for former homeless teen James Matthews, playing piano smack-dab in the center of this famous stage is a dream come true.
Born and raised in Wauchula, Florida, Matthews was exposed to the world of music at the tender age of 3 years old. He took jazz and blues lessons from his father, but it wasn’t until middle school that he made piano his priority. “I started reading and listening to everything I could get my hands on about piano, and it just kind of grew from there,” he gushed.
However, after high school, Matthews found himself struggling to keep up with the increasing number of bills. Now that his parents were out of the picture, he was forced to find refuge in Florida Southern College’s 24 hour studio until an instructor found him asleep. The teacher located a temporary home for Matthews after the teen spent a full year and a half being homeless, and helped him enroll in another university with an affordable tuition and dorm.
So, how did this talented man who seemed to have plenty of misfortune land a gig at one of the most prestigious concert halls in New York? Well, as a student at the University of West Florida, Matthews earned his chance by submitting a video entry in the 2014 American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition. His performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata No. 7” won him an honorable mention and a spot to perform on April 20 at the New York City landmark.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I, in a million years, thought I would never see myself going on that stage, and it just means the world to me.”