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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Blindness since birth does not stop NE student’s enthusiasm for music

By D’André Hillman/reporter

Born 24 weeks premature, weighing 1 pound, 10 ounces and only 12 inches long, Joseph King was born blind.

He suffered from retinopathy of prematurity, a disease that primarily affects premature infants, according to the National Eye Institute.

But he has a powerful ear for music.

At 2 years old, King started playing the keyboard. He started singing at 3. He was self-taught on instruments and said singing was a “God-given” gift.

“I loved music since I was 2,” he said. “On my spare time, I play the keyboard. I sing any chance I get.”

King, a NE student, said he practices four hours every day on the piano at school and makes good use of the opportunity because he doesn’t have a piano at home.

As he talked, he played a classical piece he wrote, “Exultate Just in Domino,” on a black Grand B Steinway piano in an empty room.

Being blind, King said he uses his hearing more — it helps him with his music and everyday life tasks.

“That ear is phenomenal,” said NE assistant professor Bobbie Douglass, King’s choir instructor.

He sometimes learns his songs using a computer program that slows down music, which helps him hear the notes being played and the way they’re being played. However, King said he rarely uses that method and prefers to listen to the music repeatedly at a regular speed.

“Repetition is key when listening to music,” he said. “It’s key to anything.”

King has written six songs, three on a guitar and three on a piano. “Meant To Be” and “Holding Out” are songs he wrote about his girlfriend on the guitar.

He performed his third song on the guitar, “I Live This Life,” outside on campus. He soon attracted a small crowd that listened to him sing and strum the guitar that laid flat on his lap.

Since he was 11 years old, King has played the guitar. He plays his acoustic guitar lap-style, an unusual technique for that instrument. Lap-style is usually played on specially structured guitars. King prefers this technique to the traditional method of playing an acoustic guitar because he finds it easier.

King played more classical music on the piano but said he enjoys jazz, blues and Spanish-style music.

Growing up with family members who all played music, King said he developed an assorted range of instruments he could play. The Native American flute, Irish whistle, acoustic guitar, congas, accordion and autoharp are just a few he said he could play.

The voice is an instrument, King said, that he loves playing as much as the other instruments. He said he could sing jazz, country and any other style of music.

King stayed in choir his whole high school career at Richland High, making All-Region choirs from seventh to 11th grades.

“You don’t make that without being good,” Douglass said. “He’s a fabulous musician.”

Last month, he performed his first gig at the White Cane Day event in Austin. The event is devoted to celebrating independence and opportunities for the blind and visually impaired, according to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. The Austin event is the biggest in the state. He played a few of his original songs on his guitar and piano.

NE student Andi Marrero, who is making an album with Sony, met King in one her classes. She said she would like to do a song with King on her album.

“Every time we sing together, it’s fun,” Marrero said.

However, he prefers teaching music as a career. Majoring in music education on NE, he wants to transfer to Dallas Baptist for his undergraduate studies. He wants to then teach high school music in the Birdville school district. King said he wants to be a music educator and loves teaching as much as he does playing.

In a crowded parking lot, King even knows the sound of his mother’s car when she comes to pick him up.

“It makes a rattling sound,” he said.

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