Mary D. Watkins Resume

Composer, Arranger, Pianist

Mary Watkins

Mary Watkins

Film Scores
Grants & Awards
Published Scores
Other Skills
Special Projects


Instrumental Music

Mary Watkins has composed instrumental music for individual performers, theatrical productions, films, and symphony orchestras. The music has been performed by the Berkeley Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Richmond (VA), Chamber Orchestra, Rohnert Park Symphony, Palo Alto Philharmonic, The Women’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Camellia Symphony Orchestra, Plymouth Symphony, and The New Black Music Repertory Ensemble of Chicago, among others.  See the discography below for her recorded compositions.

Full-length Operas

  • Queen Clara (2005) – The personal life story of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. Composed by Mary Watkins with libretto by Lance Belville. Produced by Oakland Opera Theater, July 2005.
  • Dark River (2009) – The story of Fanny Lou Hamer and SNCC during the civil rights struggle of the sixties.  Produced by Oakland Opera Theater, November 2009.
I Question America

Listen to I Question America (Act 2, Scene 6) -(Fannie Lou Hamer: Raina Simon Parks)

We Lost Dorothy

Listen to We Lost Dorothy (Act 2, Scene 11) –  (Fannie: Raina Simon Parks; Pap: Joe Parks)


Albums Composed Entirely by Mary Watkins:

Something Moving  (Olivia, 1979)
Winds of Change  (Palo Alto Jazz, 1982)
Spiritsong  (Redwood Records, 1985)
Prayer For Peace 2003 (Shotsky Music, 2003)

Albums Featuring Compositions or Arrangements by Mary Watkins

The Soul Knows (Wenefil, 1992) – Features traditional hymns, gospels and spirituals
Song For My Mother (CD of jazz trio co-produced with Joyce Kauffman) – Features 2 Watkins originals on High Tide Music, 1999)
Dancing  Souls (LadySlipper, 2000) flute & piano duo; all music co-created with Kay Gardner
Who Has Not Been Touched (CD of jazz quartet co-produced with Joyce Kauffman) – Features 3 Watkins originals (High Tide Music, 2004)
Music of the African Diaspora: Five Movements in Color; Suite for orchestra (Albany Records, 2009)

Film Scores

The Wolf, Peter Nicks, UC Berkeley, 2001
Different Colors; KQED public television, 1999
Family Values; Pam Walton Productions, 1995
Skin Deep; Iris Films, 1995
Dream Horse; A Shaffer Travis Production, 1994
Black Is… Black Ain’t;  Signifyin’ Works Productions, 1994
Out For A Change;  WomanVision, 1994
Complaints Of A Dutiful Daughter, Hoffman Productions, 1994, (Academy Award nomination, Emmy Award, 1996, Dupont Film Awards,1996, and numerous others)
Straight From The Heart, WomanVision, 1994, (Academy Award nomination).
Freedom On My Mind, Clarity Productions (Sundance award winner,
1994 Academy Award nomination)
Valuing Relationships  I, II, and III, (3 films) Griggs Productions, 1993
Conversations With Alice Walker; Charles Johnson; Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor; August Wilson; John Wideman;  6 documentary films covering one of each writer for each film, California Newsreel, 1992
The World of O’Brien-Kreitzberg, Koppleman and Associates, 1991
Aids in Africa, Family Health International,1991, (Black Filmmakers Hall Of Fame)
Ein Stehauf Mannchen, Vivian Kleiman Productions, 1991
Color Adjustment; Peabody award winner, Signifyin’ Works Productions, 1991
Diversity Among Japanese American Women; The American Japanese Historical Society, 1990.
The Coming Ice Age; Ephron Productions, 1988
Fighting For Our Lives;  Seidler Productions, 1987
Valuing Diversity;  Part I, II, and III (3 films) Copeland and  Griggs productions, 1987
Ethnic Notions; Emmy Award winner and several other national and international awards, MTR productions, 1986

Grants and Awards

Zellerbach Family Fund (for Dark River development, 2011)
PatsyLu Fund of Open Meadows Foundation (for Dark River, 2011)
Zellerbach Family Fund (for individual artists, 2001)
Meet the Composer Commissioning Program (1993, 1994)
Meet the Composer Commissioning Program (1992, 1993)
California Arts Council Artist in Residence Program (1991/92)
City of Oakland Composer Fellowship (1991)
California Arts Council Composer Fellowship (1991)
Meet The Composer Commissioning Program (1990)
Gerbode Foundation (1989)
Zellerbach Family Fund Composition (1986,1987, 1988, 2001)
National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Composition (1987)
Clorox Foundation (1987, 1988)
Oakland Redevelopment Agency Jazz Performance (1986)
Member, California Arts Council Tour Roster (1985)
California Arts Council Touring Program (1985/86, 87/88, 88/89)
Best Composer/Arranger and Best Keyboardist Nomination,
Bay  Area  Jazz Artist Music Awards (1985)
National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Jazz Performance (1981)
National Endowment for the Arts, Women’s Prison Tour (1980)
Best Debut Album Nomination, Bay Area Music Awards (1979)

Special Projects

Within  Our  Gates: Toured in 1993 to the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institute, and the International Philadelphia Film Festival as pianist and co-composer (piano and violin) for the silent film of the earliest known full length feature film (1919) by an African American filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux.  (Pianist and Co-composer)

The Nutcracker Sweetie: Composed music and integrated it with a jazz adaptation of the classic Nutcracker by Peter Tchaikovsky. The piece was performed as an annual holiday special by San Francisco’s Dance Brigade from 1987-1997. (Music Director, Composer, Arranger)

The Resurrection of Lady Lester,  Served as music director and composer for a musical play at San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in 1988. (Music Director and Composer)

The Bluest Eye,  Composed music for a theatrical adaptation by Rick Foster, of the Toni Morrison’s book, The Bluest Eye, produced by San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 1989. (Composer)

Queen Clara:  Composed opera based on the life of Clara Barton with libretto by Lance Belville. Produced by Oakland Opera Theater, July 2005. (Composer)

Dark River: Composed and wrote libretto for an opera based on the life of civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. Produced by Oakland Opera Theater, 2009.  (Composer and Librettist)

Scores Published by Shotsky Music

Full Orchestra :  Five Movements In Color
Chamber Orchestra:  Rag
Chamber Orchestra:  Hide N’ Seek
Woodwind Quintet:  The Party Line
Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon: Piece For Woodwind Wind Trio  (4 movements)
Flute, Clarinet, Cello, and Piano: Piece For Quartet (3 movements)
Flute Solo (Piano Accompaniment): Braziltown USA
Flute Solo (Piano Accompaniment): Patrick The Dancer
Oboe  (Piano Accompaniment) Chablet
Trumpet Solo (Piano Accompaniment) Call To Peace
Trumpet Solo (Piano Accompaniment) Mount Cathedral
Violoncello (Piano Accompaniment) The Medium, Focus,
& Black Waters
Piano Solos  Music For Young Musicians (3 Books)
Chorus:  We Are One  (7 movements)
Opera: Dark River, Premiered Nov 14th, 2009, Oakland Opera Theatre;  Oakland California

Other Skills

Arranger – Arranged for strings, horns and rhythm, voices. Arranged popular show tunes and standards for various projects. Transcribed, arranged and orchestrated music for songwriters and composers

Record Producer – Coordinated musicians and studio sessions, worked closely with engineers and featured artists.  Managed musical production for seven commercial albums.

Professional Performer/Pianist – Performed professionally on acoustic piano, electric piano, synthesizer, and other keyboards. Work consisting of nationwide solo piano concerts, trio, quartet, and quintet/sextet performances. Church Pianist/Organist.

Teacher – Taught private music lessons in theory, improvisation, piano; Taught jazz Piano at Holy Names College, Oakland, CA 1994-1997.


Howard University, Bachelor of Music (cum laude), Washington, D.C., 1972.