For Matthew Whitaker, proficient on the Hammond B3 organ, drums and other instruments, the world has witnessed his onstage wizardry since the age of 11.
On Friday, he’ll stop at the Lincoln Theatre in the District to showcase his musical skills as a composer, arranger and bandleader, appearing with the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir.
“I’m very excited to work with them again and it will be amazing,” said Whitaker about the choir with whom he worked in March 2020 — one of the last concerts presented by Washington Performing Arts before the pandemic shutdown.
Whitaker, blind and born prematurely at less than two pounds, had not been expected to survive. Doctors said, even if he did, he probably would not be able to crawl, walk or speak.
Today, at age 21, he’s a veteran musician who has collaborated with several fellow keyboardists, including Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Jon Batiste, Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor for Jazz Jason Moran, bandleader Arturo O’Farrill, Rhoda Scott and Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who died on Sept. 28, 2021.
Whitaker has also performed with bassist Christian McBride, violinist Regina Carter and vibraphonist Roy Ayers.
The Hackensack, N.J., native’s career includes appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Showtime at the Apollo,” “The Harry Connick Jr. Show” and “60 Minutes.”
Weathering the Pandemic
Like many musicians during the pandemic, Whitaker performed streaming concerts and spent time composing. His latest CD, “Connections,” features music composed before, during and in reaction to the pandemic. He recorded most of the CD in just two days. This summer, Whitaker went back on the road with live performances.
“It’s been great to be back in front of a live audience,” he said. “You have a chance to feel their reactions. One thing I took away from the lockdown was don’t be afraid to keep developing as a person and still be creative, even if you’re by yourself.”
Performing at the Lincoln Theatre
When Whitaker dons the Lincoln Theatre stage, Marcos Robinson will accompany him on guitar, along with Isaiah Johnson on drums and Karim Hutton on electric bass.
“We’re going to play everything: jazz, gospel and R&B,” he said.
Audiences also will hear selections from all three of Whitaker’s CDs. When Whitaker learned that he would be appearing in the space which once featured legends including Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, he expressed his exuberance.
“I’m honored and thankful to know that people I admire have played there,” Whitaker said.
To learn more about Whitaker visit his website https://www.matthewwhitaker.net and for tickets, see https://www.washingtonperformingarts.org/seasontickets/2021-22-season/matthew-whitaker-quartet.
Social Media for Mathew Whitaker:
Twitter – @_MattWhitaker
Instagram – @matthewwhitakerofficial
Social Media for Washington Performing Arts
Twitter – @WashPerformArts
Instagram – @washingtonperformingarts/