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Mark Watkins: Overcoming obstacles by following your passion

You can’t choose your obstacles, but you can choose how you overcome them.

Mark Watkins is a professor of jazz studies at BYU-Idaho with a doctorate in fine woodwinds. He is a member of an internationally traveled quartet and is legally blind.

Born with a detached retina, Watkins has had to use ingenuity to cope with his visual impairment. In elementary school, though he was switched between regular and specialized classes daily, Watkins stood directly behind his teachers in order to see the blackboard and take notes. He persisted in discovering ways to function in a world that did not have the technology to properly support him.

Watkins’ research and scholarly articles have been used as a starting point for further research regarding the physics behind musical instruments. He is the author of From the Inside Out, which takes an in-depth look at the development of the saxophone’s sound.

From the inside out book by dr mark watkins
Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

In order to pursue his love of music after becoming completely blind, Watkins relies on his own ear and memory to play pieces and instruct students in their music. He has learned that you must use the resources available to you in order to overcome obstacles and succeed.

Watkins gives this advice to anyone who struggles with trials as they pursue their dreams:

“You can’t be self-conscious; you just have to do what you need to.”

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