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Teacher’s ‘Journey’ began years earlier
Album comes out this month
Watkins 2 jd
Chad Watkins' piano solo album, "The Journey," will be released Oct. 30. - photo by Jim Dean
On the Net

“The Journey” is available online at
Chad Watkins is striking a chord in and out of the classroom at Haw Creek Elementary School.

Watkins’ passion for music can be heard in his upcoming solo piano album, “The Journey.”

But his love of the art also resonates with the students in his music class, said Haw Creek Principal Amy Davis.

“His love for music and his talent is inspiring for the children in our school — those who are musically inclined and even those who maybe didn’t realize they were before — because he is so enthusiastic about what he does and his passion comes through in his teaching,” she said.

“People are just amazed at what they can do in just a few short lessons with him as far as performing.”

Watkins has been an educator off and on for more than a decade, teaching various grade levels in the Dawson and Forsyth county school systems.

His musical journey began about 35 years ago, when his sister, two years his senior, started taking piano lessons.

“My parents bought ... this old, green, upright piano when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I would use my pointer finger and would pick out the melody of whatever hymn we sang that morning in church.

“It went from one finger to two fingers, from two fingers to both hands, and by the time I was 7 years old, I was playing.”

He began taking formal lessons went on to become a music teacher after college. After seven years teaching in Dawson County, Watkins decided to try something new.

He opened a performing arts school in Dawsonville, offering dance, music, theater and gymnastics classes. After five years, he sold the studio and went to work as a music director and choreographer at a dinner theater in Helen.

“I loved the job, but you work every night and every weekend ... and that’s what made me decide I wanted to come back to education,” he said.

Having taught at middle and high schools, Watkins decided to give elementary school a try. He also was teaching extra classes four nights a week and playing gigs on the weekends.

The nonstop lifestyle affected his health.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for me that you’ve got to take time out in life,” he said. “I really had to slow down and really focus and find out what my priorities are.

“The problem was, I wish I could do all of it. I love it all, but there’s not enough time in the day. And the bottom line is, when you let yourself get run down, you become effective at nothing.”

His newfound balance was the source of inspiration for “The Journey,” for which he wrote 20 original compositions.

“It’s a very meditative CD. It’s very relaxing and very calming,” he said. “It’s something that if you have a very stressful day, you can come home, put it on ... and it will quiet your mind. It will really facilitate helping people to relax and learn to take a moment.

“When you listen to it, you’ll know I poured my spirit into this, my heart into this.”

His album will be released Oct. 30, but he’s already working on a second piano solo album and a third with vocals. 

His dedication and true love of music translates beyond his craft, Davis said.

“He has that great gift for performing, but he ... brings all of his background into everything that he does,” she said. “He teaches them about instruments and singing, but he also brings so much into teaching them to be performers. He gets so much out of these kids.

“I’ve been an educator for about 25 years and have worked with some very talented people, and I would have to say that he’s among the very, very best.”