NEW JERSEY (FOX 5 NEWS) - Matthew Whitaker is blind, yet at 14 has already traveled the world as an accomplished pianist. He says he got turned on to jazz when he was just 7 listening to music in the car with his dad. A year later he enrolled in Jazz House Kids, a nonprofit that serves 1,200 students from different New Jersey towns, grades, and backgrounds every year. It offers music education in underserved school districts and free instruments to those who can't afford them. The location in Montclair is home to 21 different ensembles.
Jazz House Kids was started by jazz singer Melissa Walker 14 years ago. Her husband and the organization's creative director is world-renowned jazz bassist Christian McBride.
Julius Tolentino directs the organization's large ensembles, like the Big House Band.
Drummer Donovan Marshall is one of the students. When Marshall--a high school senior from Paterson--first found out about the jazz house he worried it was out of his reach. Fast forward two years and he's now applying to top college music programs and conservatories.
From here the sky's the limit. Whether they go on to top music schools, great bands or do something totally different, the hope is that by being in this program the students have a brighter future.