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Janette Márquez inspires us with her voice, her spirit, and her courage.
Janette is legally blind from congenital glaucoma, and although she was visually challenged due to her glaucoma from a young age, Janette showed special promise with her musical skills. She made her official debut at the National Theater of Dominican Republic where she shared the stage with some of the most important artists in her country.
Janette is an inspiration to all who hear her sing, and her conviction to help others inspired Glaucoma Research Foundation to invite her to perform at our Glaucoma 360 Annual Gala that was held on February 2, 2017 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, and accept our 2017 Visionary Award.
Watch the video below to learn more about Janette Márquez and her inspirational story.
Janette Marquez: The Voice That Illuminates (a documentary video by Perla Peralta)
Announcer: Here you have… I hope you enjoy her… Janette Marquez.
Janette Marquez: My name is Janette Marquez and I am an singer of basically anything you would like for me to infuse with opera. It has been really fun, this experience. I’ve sung a lot in the Dominican Republic. I’ve sung in theaters; I’ve sung here in the United States. But when those curtains open, it’s a reflecting point for me. When I get up there, I have to reflect in order to be calm and serene. I have glaucoma, which means that I am legally blind.
I was born in New York City. And I was born with what is called congenital glaucoma. Right now I am legally blind which means I am borderline, so I’m in and out of that realm. My vision has changed. It keeps changing. So that's made life a lot harder because I have had to deal with a lot of different situations.
Daniel Lutz, MD: It’s something of a mystery, to some degree, because nobody knows exactly what it is. We know it’s a condition that causes blindness and we know it’s associated with intraocular pressure. So, like anything can have pressure, a ball can have pressure, a balloon. An eyeball has pressure and there is a normal range for that pressure between (millimeters of mercury, just like your barometer); it’s between about 8 and 25 mmHg or so; in that range you are generally good, but if you are above that for a long period of time you end up with glaucoma.
Gleny Valerio de Marquez: (Janette's mother) It was something, instant, when Janette was born. I could say that I had; there was already a history of in the family of glaucoma. It was one of my husband’s nephews. And I don’t know why, I felt a premonition, but I don’t know why. When my daughter was born, it was a natural birth. And the doctors took my daughter in their hands. I told the doctor -- I don’t even think they’d even cut her umbilical cord yet -- and I told the doctor, “Check the little girl’s eyes.” And then the doctor told me, “But, why do you say that?” And I told him, “I want to check my daughter’s eyes.” They kept insisting, “why?” After I saw my daughter I told them, “I don’t see any shine in my daughter’s eyes.”
Janette Marquez: Since I was a kid, I remember I started when I was 9. And yes, people would say, "oh, you’re a great singer, you can sing." But I wasn't so attached to the idea of becoming a musician. It wasn't something I had in mind until I actually went to music school.
I’ve had multiple surgeries and it's been hard balancing those things out. My adolescent years were very inconsistent with my health and I had surgery and the consciences were that I would have a retinal detachment. And it happened, I had the retinal detachment and I lost a lot of my left vision in my left eye and I couldn't see from that eye as much anymore. Now it’s all blurs and shadows. But I have a great family to support me and I got through and it's been a long journey with that.
And then senior year I decided that I wanted to go to music school. Well I always knew. But for some reason I wasn’t so attached to the idea of being a classical singer. That was not something I aspired to do very early. I wanted to be a jazz artist. That was my dream that was my focus, because I admired a very famous Dominican artist, Juan Luis Guerra who took Jazz and basically made a fusion with merengue, bachata, all the tropical genres, and infused it all together and it made him the guy he is today. And I admired that someone for the first time took our culture, and our roots, who we are, and made it into something so incredible and so big in the Latin world. It is huge. And I wanted to do that. And I remember reading that he went to Berkley and that was my dream since I was a little girl, so I wanted to go there.
But my voice teacher said "No, you’re not going there. I want you to go into classical singing. And she gave me a list of schools she wanted me to apply, and one of them was Westminster. And I was scared because I said, “Me, sing opera? I don't know.” I was very scared. I mean, this is not where I thought I would be. But I’m glad I am, because I’ve grown to the idea, and I’m actually in love with the idea, because classical singing is so rich.
As I mentioned before I had a very rough childhood just because I had something that was physical and it made it hard for people to understand. Because when you are blind, you can’t see! So it makes it easier for people to understand that you can’t see a thing. But when you’re legally blind, you have what is "tunnel vision," so you have some vision but it's not enough. And it's so hard for people to understand that.
And it was hard to cope because I knew that I could do more than what people thought that I could do, because it was really hard. And when you have any physical disability or disadvantage, for some reason people want to associate it with some mental disability, or retardation. And, I mean, it’s not true. I didn’t have any mental disability. It was visual. But it was really hard for teachers to understand. And I started going to music school -- at this time I was studying abroad in the Dominican Republic -- and that changed my life. It really did, because it brought confidence, and it made me understand that I didn't have my eyes but that I had my ears. And there I knew that music was not just a talent or a gift that was given to me. But it was my medicine. It was my stability, it was my companion, because I was also bullied a lot. And it became somewhat of a companion, a friend. I’d say it became like this other world that I could come and go when I needed to.
Gleny Valerio de Marquez: She has been a huge fighter. She has been very independent. Very sure about what she wants, and she has won a very big battle. Or she has been winning a big battle. Because I know that she still has a lot of big things she would like to accomplish. I am a big believer, and I believe that God is going to take her where he believes that she should be. She has a lot of strength and desire. Her strength is going to take her far. But I know the decision is in God’s hands.
Janette Marquez: Well hopefully graduated! (laughs) I don't know. And the reason why I respond with that is because I've learned to not plan. Whenever, in adolescence, I had trouble with the concept of planning, because I wanted to plan, I wanted to be a planner and say, "When I graduate high school I want to do this." But the circumstances that I've been through have made me not plan, have made me just hope for the best. And keep on fighting and battling and picking my battles and what I do next, and what I’ll do next, I just do it and fight through it. When you plan, sometimes you don't know. In my case I'm a perfectionist, and I don't know how to deal with it if that plan goes wrong, what will I do. So I tend to not plan. I tend to just move on. ‘When you have lemons, you make lemonade. So I do that. I make lemonade out of everything. And the battles I can’t win, I just have to know that I tried. But I never go with the mentality that I am always going to win. I just go with it as ‘I have to give it my best shot’ and hope for the best.
Video directed and produced by Perla Peralta, 2015. Shared with her permission.
Janette Márquez was born in the United States to Dominican parents. She started studying music when her family moved to the Dominican Republic. Her studies were challenging, because Janette is legally blind from congenital glaucoma.
Although visually challenged due to her glaucoma, Janette showed special promise with her musical skills. She learned to play piano, joined choral groups, and performed as a solo artist. Returning to the United States, she continued to develop her voice and studied guitar. As a member of the New Jersey State Woman’s Choir, Janette received special recognition for her talent and dedication, serving as motivation to others because of her determination. She attended the Westminster Choir College in Princeton to obtain a Major in Bachelor of Music and Minor in Psychology and later performed with symphony orchestras in the Dominican Republic. Following several appearances on Dominican and international television, Janette performed her official debut at the National Theater of Dominican Republic where she shared the stage with some of the most important artists in her country.
Last reviewed on October 29, 2017