Gabriel Watkins worked to remove barriers to music education

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 8:40 p.m. CST; updated 8:47 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 19, 2013

COLUMBIA — Gabriel Watkins, a Columbia musician, worked as a piano teacher for nearly two years at Piano Distributors in Columbia.

On his page on the company's site, he says, "I truly believe that we all need music and that there are people out there who have something stopping them from receiving music education, whether it's a financial, physical, or mental disability."

Mr. Watkins taught under the name "Notes for Life" with the goal of removing the barriers that keep people from pursuing music, according to the page.

"Two years ago, he told me that he would quit his jobs and start his own business," said Wedge Watkins, Mr. Watkins' father. "He wanted it to be a music education business that provided access to music for all people, regardless of economics or age or any other limitations."

Gabriel J. Watkins of Columbia died Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, after a car accident. He was 27.

Mr. Watkins was born April 24, 1986, in Klamath Falls, Ore., to Wedge and Wanda Watkins. 

Wedge Watkins remembered a time when his son, then 4 or 5 years old, was pecking around on a plastic keyboard. 

"I went outside and did some work," Wedge Watkins said. "When I came back, he was playing 'Amazing Grace.'"

Mr. Watkins spent the majority of his life in Oregon, where he attended high school at Mazama High School. His parents moved to Columbia in 2005, and he joined them there in 2006, when he was 19.

In addition to teaching piano, Mr. Watkins also self-produced an album called "Notes for Life."

"He had a gift for music and a passion for it, but it took him from age 18 to 25 to be comfortable enough with who he was," Wedge Watkins said. "That's where he was on his journey."

Wedge Watkins said that his son was goofy, creative and passionate and that he loved people and knew how to make others feel valued.

"He had leadership skills, but not necessarily the vociferous or barking-order type of leadership," Wedge Watkins said. "He was an encourager."

Mr. Watkins is survived by his parents, Wedge and Wanda Watkins of Columbia; his girlfriend, Catherine Ferguson of Columbia; two aunts, Joyce Reveter of Klamath Falls, Ore., and Kelly Watkins of Fairfield, Ill.; an uncle, Donald Reveter of Springfield, Ill.; his special friend Megan Crites of Columbia; and numerous other friends. 

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at CenterPoint Church, 1900 N. Providence Road. 

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