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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Blind student finds calling in music

Behind a drum kit sits sophomore Alex Williamson, music maestro and drummer extraordinaire. He plays a quick beat and grins, ready to perform.Williamson has been blind since birth, but that hasn’t hindered his dreams of becoming a full-time professional metal drummer.

After showing an early interest in percussion instrumentation, Williamson began drumming 11 years ago.

“I found drums fascinating,” said Williamson. “I always used to beat on things when I was younger and when I felt a drum kit for the first time, I was mesmerized by its shapes and textures. When I heard my first drumbeat, I was so curious and wanted to find out how they were created.”

For Williamson’s 11th birthday, his parents purchased his first drum kit. He discovered the kit after coming downstairs and tripping over it in his living room. After he felt and recognized the obstruction, his initial anger at falling was replaced by an overwhelming sense of joy.

When Williamson first started drumming, he thought it would be the easiest instrument to learn. He was mistaken.

Williamson had to learn how to organize his kit efficiently and to his liking. Drumming demanded coordination and discipline to keep time and tempo. The endless practice, as well as his perfect pitch, has helped him to better understand drumming and music as a whole.

“Alex has accomplished a lot, especially with what he’s had to deal with,” said sophomore Craig Williamson, Alex’s brother. “I wouldn’t say he’s had to work harder than other drummers to get where he’s at; I think he just loves what he does. He’s an extremely solid drummer, and he can keep time better than I can.”

Zhihong Chen, assistant professor of history, who teaches Williamson in her History of East Asia to 1800s class, said that she had the opportunity to see him perform live.

“I got to see him play the snare drum,” said Chen. “He was so into his instrument and there was a real connection between him and the music. He’s a very open-minded and creative person.”

Before transferring to Guilford, Williamson attended Guilford Technical Community College as a music major. He also attended a UNCG music program as a dorm chaperone and rehearsal assistant. During the program, Williamson said he learned how to repair the timpani and tune each drum in less than 30 seconds.

Now a full-time CCE student, Williamson says he hopes to play with Guilford’s pep band.

“I’m really looking forward to playing at the games and I’m hoping my friends will come because most of them haven’t seen me play,” said Williamson. “Everybody’s been so nice. I think we’ll all have a fun time playing together.”

Williamson noted that there has been at least one famous blind musician in almost every genre of music in history, such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Billie Willie Johnson. He would like to become the first famous blind musician in metal.

In the meantime, Williamson said, he will keep scouting for a metal group to join – and continue marching to the beat of his own drum.

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