Matt McLaren's got talent
Guide Dogs client is Newcastle's newest rising star
Twenty-seven-year old Matt McLaren's life took an exciting turn when his audition for the popular television show, Australia's Got Talent, was aired nationally.
Blind since birth and a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT client since he was four years old, the Newcastle local has received an incredible amount of praise and support on social media for his performance on the show.
With an unmistakable talent for music, Matt is a classically trained pianist and has been performing since the age of three. After moving from the small country town of Denman in the Hunter Valley to Newcastle, Matt's life changed dramatically when he received his first Guide Dog, Stamford.
With the amount of travel required to get to gigs around Newcastle, having a Guide Dog has allowed Matt to maintain an independent, busy life and a thriving music career.
"Stamford enables me to do so much more than I could with a cane, such as carry music gear and travel confidently to new places," said Matt.
"I always thought it would be difficult to put that much trust in an animal, but receiving Stamford completely changed that. He was so confident, and straight away knew what to do. It was truly liberating."
Stamford has been Matt's eyes and companion for eight years now, and continues to join him as he plays solo gigs or with his band Twinsanity at local venues and events. As such, Stamford was a very disinterested partner on stage for his owner's first-time television performance.
For Matt, on the other hand, his Australia's Got Talent audition was a nerve-wracking experience and has proved to be only the start of an unbelievable journey. In particular, the online reaction to his audition has left Matt stunned.
"The social media response has been incredible, and overwhelmingly positive," he said.
"I'm still coming to grasp with the scope of it, but it's a really good feeling. I'm very grateful for everyone's support."
For this local rising star, Matt hopes to gain two things from his experience with the show. While he would love to further his music career, he also hopes to motivate other people who are blind or vision impaired to not be limited by their disability.
"I'm living my life exactly the way I want to, and I want others to know that they can too," he said.
When Matt isn't playing music, he runs his own production recording studio, S&M Productions.
Check out his Facebook page (facebook.com/mattmclarenmusic) to find out where he is playing next in Newcastle, and tune in to Channel 9 this Sunday night to see his semi-final performance on Australia's Got Talent.