[nfbmi-talk] Local musician offers acoustic Christmas concert
Mary Ann Robinson
brightsmile1953 at comcast.net
Wed Dec 8 20:17:08 CST 2010
Thanks to Barbara Routen for writing this great article about me and my work!
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind
President at NAGDU.ORG
Local musician offers acoustic Christmas concert
by Barbara Routen
Reprinted from the Tampa Tribune, December 8, 2010
BRANDON - Marion & Martin - 55-year-old singer songwriter Marion Gwizdala and his
Martin D-35 guitar - will perform "An Acoustic Christmas" in a cozy venue with a
fireplace and wood-planked floors.
Gwizdala's acoustic, finger-style guitar music will accompany his tenor vocal renderings
of secular seasonal songs and religious Christmas carols.
The concert at 7 p.m. Saturday will include a sale of baked goods and holiday crafts
to benefit Brandon Unity, and an opportunity to meet Gwizdala after the show.
The venue, the Brandon Women's Center at 129 N. Moon Ave., is an historic building
and only acoustic music is allowed to be performed in it, said Gwizdala, who prefers
the pure sound and doesn't even use a pick.
The Florida native started playing piano at 6 and guitar at 14. Although he always
wanted to play guitar, his mother insisted he learn piano first.
His stage debut was in theater in third grade as the emperor in "The Emperor's New
"I think I got the role because I was the only one in my class willing to walk around
in underwear!" he said.
He performed in community theater and toured for a while with a Christian rock troupe
called The Joyful Noise Ensemble.
He attended high school seminary and a semester at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary
in Boynton Beach before deciding the priesthood was not his calling.
Gwizdala majored in music in college before earning a bachelor's degree in psychology
from the University of South Florida and a master's degree
in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University.
At 17 he learned he had inherited retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition
that gradually stole his sight. At 25, after hitting a tractor-trailer he didn't
see in the dark, he gave up driving.
"My cousins, whose father was blind with the same condition, came down from Michigan
and told me about the National Federation of the Blind and other resources,"
"They introduced me to other blind people who showed me I could become successful
and pursue the dreams I had. These blind people were ordinary, average,
everyday people living ordinary, average, everyday lives. They were not extraordinary
"I had been told that my uncle was extraordinary, amazing, because he lived a normal
life even though he was blind," Gwizdala said. "I saw myself as average - a C student,
a little above average athletically and musically - so I didn't think I could be
successful if I admitted I was blind."
He chuckled. "Not admitting it didn't change the fact that I was blind!"
He has been married twice and has a daughter, 24-year-old Aislinn Woody. She is a
personal trainer and Coast Guard reservist in San Francisco.
Gwizdala is employed as music director at New Life Unity in North Tampa and has a
private practice as a certified hypnotherapist.
He performs what he calls positive acoustic rock, a combination of original music
and covers of folk and contemporary songs with an upbeat message.
He also is a public speaker and advocate for the blind.
Gwizdala served for many years as president of the East Hillsborough Chapter of the
National Federation of the Blind, but because of his greater involvement
on the national level now, the chapter has been disbanded, he said.
Gwizdala currently is president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a
division of the National Federation of the Blind.
In March he got Sergeant, a 100-pound German shepherd from the Guide Dog Foundation
for the Blind in Smithtown, N.Y. Sergeant is working out well, Gwizdala
"He's still got a lot of puppy in him. He's a really good dog with quite a personality,
and I've found my music puts him to sleep."
Gwizdala said people have misconceptions about blindness. They expect blind people
to wear dark glasses and walk hesitatingly with their arms extended in front of them,
and for the blindness to be visible in their eyes.
Gwizdala's condition is inside his eyes, so there is no cloudy film across them and
they move in unison.
Because of that, and also his confidence and independent lifestyle, people from time
to time question whether he's really blind, particularly on or around the local buses
he rides everywhere he goes.
"With my characteristics," Gwizdala said, "I feel I'm on stage all the time. I'm
blind, go around with a dog, I'm tall, redheaded - people are always looking
at me. And people recognize me from all the advocacy work I've done."
For more information, contact
SwampFox1833 at Verizon.net
Neighbors at tampabay.rr.com">name="signature">Neighbors at tampabay.rr.com
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