From Homeless to Carnegie Hall

The revered path to Carnegie Hall normally doesn’t veer through homelessness.

But when Florida college student James Matthews, 24, takes the stage of the famed venue’s Weill Recital Hall later this month, he will look back on struggles – specifically the recent year and a half when he had no roof of his own – through which he says his love for the piano kept him going.

“It’s always been my escape,” he told the Pensacola News-Journal. “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.”

A student at the University of West Florida with plans to graduate in 2015, Matthews earned his chance to play on the concert stage with a video entry in the 2014 American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition. His performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata No. 7,” which he submitted online in January at the urging of his instructor Heidi Salanki, won him an honorable mention and thus a spot to perform April 20 at the New York City landmark.

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