Manor of the Plains residents enjoyed a special guest performance Memorial Day weekend: A recital from Matthew Vogel, a 9-year-old pianist who performed on Saturday.
    The residents rewarded the little pianist with a hearty ovation.
    Matthew will be a fourth-grade student at Sacred Heart Cathedral School next year. He performed his first recital as a soloist, interpreting songs of 10 composers, including Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. Matthew also arranged the musical pieces.
    He also plays music along with other students at his school.
    Matthew is a shy child who could not find words to express his emotions. However, he expressed himself through his skill and abilities with the piano, interpreting even complex musical pieces such as Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." His parents said Matthew began attending piano classes when he was 4 years old.            
    However, Matthew was on the brink of death when he was born prematurely along with his twin brother, Mike. Mike lived for only the next 18 hours, and Matthew struggled for his life for more than three weeks before he finally pulled through.
    Matthew's piano teacher, Carol P. Bishop, said he was the most advanced of her 45 students, consisting mostly of fifth- and sixth-graders.
    "Matthew is a gifted music student," she said. "He's able to just listen to a musical piece, then play it."
    Bishop said Matthew was able to learn new pieces quickly, stay focused and pay attention to directions. She went on to say Matthew's potential to become an excellent pianist was remarkable and the more he practices, the better he will play.
    Matthew's passion for music has also turned him into a collector of musical instruments. He has a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone at home. Last Christmas, he asked Santa for a tuba rather than toys.
    He even sings baritone sometimes, relatives said.
    Matthew's parents, John and Melanie, said they were proud that their only son is already a musician.
    "Matthew inherited my sister's musical gift," John said. "She started playing musical instruments when she was a 4-year-old girl."
    Melanie said Matthew has a new digital keyboard piano.
    "We want him to continue developing his musical skills, and he now can practice at home more comfortably with his new instrument," she said.
    Bishop said many piano students have problems with their fingers and their hearing. But, for Matthew, that was never a problem.
    "I believe he will go far because of his enthusiasm and ability with music," Bishop said. "And because of his family's encouragement."