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Musician Mary Jane's art comes naturally

By James Bright
On October 7, 2010


Music strikes the interest of people around the world because it is eclectic, and many of the musicians who create such cacophonies of sound are equally eclectic. One such arbiter of arranged tones is A&M-Commerce pre-med major Mary Jane Watkins.

Watkins said her interest in music was sparked after she spent time with an uncle.

"My uncle used to play songs to me, and two years ago, I decided to start playing my own music," she said.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in El Paso, Watkins has two fathers, one who is Hispanic and adopted her at any early age and taught her to speak Spanish. Watkins said although she had a somewhat liberal upbringing, she still has some conservative roots thanks to her mother.

According to Watkins, her lyrics come to her "naturally" and are predominantly politically based.

"I used to work for a renaissance fair, and I would get bored sitting in a tent all day, so the songs would just come to me," she said.

Although she does not own a television, Watkins said she stays abreast of current events via the Internet.

"I hear a story and I go look it up," she said.

Watkins has managed to utilize tragedy as a means of musical expression. One of her closest friends, Nathan Spataro, was killed by a drunk driver a little over a year ago, and she said music has helped her cope with the accident.

"I feel like he's watching me and I don't want to let him down," she said.

As common with many musicians, Watkins sports a unique personal style, the most striking facet of which is dreadlocks. Watkins said her appearance has attracted unwanted attention at times.

"I've had kids approach me and ask me to sell them pot," she said. "I don't sell pot."

Watkins said her appearance has also netted her to an association with a group, which she thinks is unwarranted.

"People say I'm a hippie," she said. "I'm not a hippie; I bathe every day."

However, Watkins said most of her interactions in Commerce have been positive.

"I've made so many friends here because of my appearance," she said.

Her hairstyle carries a symbolic meaning beyond just a fashion statement. Watkins said her dreadlocks symbolize her commitment to her education and to others.

"Back in the 50s, people like Bob Marley did their hair like this to say they were going to put others in front of themselves," she said. "My hair is my reminder that I'm not going to give this up. I take school and education very seriously."

Originally an English major, Watkins said world famous journalist Christiane Amanpour inspired her to pursue a medical degree.

"I met her on a Phi Theta Kappa trip and in essence she is the reason I decided to change my major," she said. "I want to be able to be that person who can do something."

Watkins plans to transfer to a school in Mexico within a year to obtain her medical degree. Although she looks forward to working as a doctor, Watkins plans to do some volunteer work with Doctors Without Borders first.

Shilpa Gopisetty, Watkins's best friend and a graduate computer science student, said Watkins's best qualities are her kindheartedness and her steadfast adherence to her beliefs.

"She's not a hypocrite," Gopisetty said. "What she says is what she is."

Gopisetty said that although she has not interacted with many other Americans, she considers her time with Watkins an enlightening experience.

"There are so many topics we talk about, and we talk all the time," she said. "We have both experienced many hardships, and it is easy for us to relate on that level."

Watkins said her love for music will always accompany her in her passion for helping others and in her drive to become a medical doctor.

"Music is essential to my well being," she said.

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