Matt Savage grew up on a 165-acre farm in Francestown with his parents. So, what's so special about him? Matt is an autistic savant. Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Savage couldn't communicate well or tolerate noises or music. His parents enrolled him in a special program for children with autism, known as the DAN Protocol that included a strict dietary and vitamin regimen. After undergoing speech and occupational therapy, Matt underwent a special auditory integration therapy to retrain his ears. The therapy essentially reset his brain's response to sound and music. By age 6 ½, Savage taught himself to read piano music and began studying classical piano at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He switched to jazz when he discovered the sounds of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.
Matt recorded his first album in 1999 at the age of 7. He was quickly labeled as a child prodigy and has appeared on several documentaries, including Savants on the Discovery Channel in 2003 and Beautiful Minds - Voyage into the Brain: Struck by Genius, which debuted on the National Geographic Channel in April 2007.
When Matt was only 8 years old, he had the opportunity to meet and play for one of his heroes, the legendary Chick Corea. The following year he was invited to a soundcheck to jam with jazz great McCoy Tyner and his sidemen, Avery Sharpe and Al Foster. In 2005, Matt performed twice with Chaka Kahn. He has performed around the world, for heads of state, and at various fundraisers.
The Matt Savage Trio was formed in 2001. Their debut album, All Jazzed Up was released that same year. A media blitz followed, and Matt appeared on Lifetime Television; he was also interviewed for ABC's 20/20 by the one and only Barbara Walters. In 2002, the trio performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Matt appeared on the Today Show with Katie Couric, The View, Montel Williams and the Discovery Channel.
Matt started racking up awards in 2004, when he received his first ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for the jazz composition "The Wild Rose", from the CD Cutting Loose. In 2005, he received the same award for his composition "Serenity", a song that was written for his grandmother. The song appears on the Matt Savage Trio's Quantum Leap album. He received a third ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for 2006/2007.
In 2007, Matt teamed up with two new musicians, Dave Robaire on bass and Joe Saylor on drums. The Matt Savage Trio released a live album titled Hot Ticket, which was recorded live at Tufts University in Medford, MA. He has mused that "the great thing about recording a live album is the energy between the musicians and the audience." He seems to get what many musicians fail to see, that this energy is what makes the magic flow.
As this child prodigy moves into adulthood, it seems that he has put his autism behind him. He is currently attending Berklee College of Music and, though he is younger than most of the students he takes classes with, he has accomplished more than many of them could imagine.
He told the Union Leader in September 2007, "I'm really trying to make my mark because child prodigies can fade." And he understands that what it considered ground-breaking today is old hat tomorrow. During that interview, he also said, "No matter how good you are you constantly have to think about getting better." That is true for anyone that has ever picked up an instrument, genius or not. He has even hinted at rock 'n roll. In February 2010 he told the Boston Globe "I also want to expand - maybe play with some insane virtuoso rock band."
In February 2011 Matt honored his latest record-release, Welcome Home, with a concert at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The album debuted at number 18 on the CMJ Jazz chart and reached number 5. The record was entirely written and arranged by him.