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From Rags to Carnegie Hall

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR/WKRC) -- A University of West Florida (UWF) music student has been chosen to perform at Carnegie Hall Music Competition in New York City on April 20th.

James Matthews, 24, is a music performance major and recipient of a music talent scholarship.

How does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. James Matthews spends up to 10 hours a day sitting before a grand piano echoing the sounds of Beethoven.

Since he was three years old James has kept a piano within arm's reach. His music has gotten him through the good times in life, and the bad. "I ended up sleeping where ever I could sleep for about a year and a half," Matthews said.

After graduating high school, Matthews was homeless. His parents were out of the picture.

Luckily the piano studio at Florida Southern College in Lakeland was open 24 hours. That's how his teacher learned of his situation and stepped in to help. "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.

Matthews continued perfecting his craft at UWF. Eventually he decided to take his talents to the big stage, Carnegie Hall in New York City.

He entered the American Protg International piano & strings competition and Matthews was selected as an Honorable Mention winner.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "I never would have thought in a million years I see myself going on that stage and it just means the world to me."

Musicians from all over the world will study his every note, chord and key stroke. A solid performance could springboard his music career to the next level.

James has overcome challenges before and Carnegie Hall will be no different. "I really don't know what's going to happen with it," he said. "But I'm just going to go and try my best and stay focused."

Matthews will perform Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 11:30 am in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


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