[Perform-talk] Article from the Tampa Tribune

Marion Gwizdala blind411 at verizon.net
Wed Dec 8 13:58:16 UTC 2010

Dear All,
    Thanks to Barbara Routen for writing this great article about me and my work!

Fraternally yours,
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 Clothes.


"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,"

he said.


"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 people."


"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


Marion Gwizdala


SwampFox1833 at Verizon.net



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