Piano takes student from homelessness to Carnegie Hall

The musician, who was without a roof over his head for a year, won the 2014 American Protege International piano and strings competition, and was awarded of a performance at the famed venue

New York: A college student’s musical talents have helped him to make the incredible leap from a homeless student to a performer at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

The Pianist:  Matthews says that music has always been his means of escape

University of West Florida’s student James Matthews entered the 2014 American Protege International piano and strings competition, and received an honourable mention along with the prize of a performance at the famed Carnegie Hall. This accomplishment is all the more inspiring, considering Matthews’ difficulties along the path to success.

Pride of place: Built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, Carnegie Hall it is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical music and popular music. Pic\Getty Images

Matthews went to Florida Southern College, but shortly after his high school graduation, he found himself without a place to live. His parents ‘were out of the picture’ and he was homeless for nearly a year-and-a-half. He would sleep in his school’s 24-hour piano studio until his teacher helped him.

“He found me sleeping in his studio and pretty much got me out of that situation, found me a different school to go to where I had a dorm and a roof over my head,” said Matthews, who is 24-years-old. Now continuing his studies at UWF, Matthews will get a bachelor’s degree in music in 2015.

He discovered a love for the piano at a very young age — his father started teaching him about blues and jazz when he was just three — and credits music with getting him through some difficult times. “I always had my piano, and it’s always been my escape,” he said. “I decided if I never gave up it would get me through life, and it has. I don’t know where I'd be if it wasn’t for music.”

April 20
The date on which Matthews will be performing in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York

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  • James Matthews04-Apr-2014

    Thank you so much for writing a beautiful article on me! I'm emotionally overwhelmed with everyone' support! I hope my story inspires others to keep fighting!

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