Minister Ray Watkins is one of the most talented and spiritually gifted musicians and ministers of this generation. Playing with a nimble expertise thus adopting the name “Heat Ray”, smoking the ivory’s with an artful dexterity, his performance is nothing short of magnificent. A pianist who plays with considerable intensity and spirit from God, his music will caress your soul and move you to tears.
Ray was first introduced to the piano when he was seven years old. On his parents 16th Anniversary, his dad gave his mother a piano as a gift. Although his mother never learned to play, Ray would tinkle on the keys from time to time. He was given an opportunity to show his musical gifts when the pianist didn’t show up for choir rehearsal. Ray sat down at the piano and just played. His parents then got him started in classical piano lessons and he developed quickly. He studied music and theory at Duke University from the 9th through 12th grades. A leader from the start, while attending, he also performed with the Duke University Youth Symphony for two consecutive years. He conducted the youth choir at his church from the 8th grade through graduation.
Ray went on to win numerous talent shows in school and was awarded scholarships to five different colleges. Determined however, to master his chosen field he is a graduate of Elon University; he holds his B.A. degree in Musical Performance and Education. Two days after graduation he was introduced to Teddy Riley by Bernard Belle who convinced him to come to New York, which was just the beginning of his phenomenal success.
Touring with such artist’s as Guy, Blackstreet, Earth Wind & Fire, Today, The Boys, and The Gap Band, just to name a few. He was the first musical director for Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band. Once again proving he is a born leader.
Ray has produced such world class productions and artists as Glenn Jones' number one single “Here I Go Again”, the daughter of the Motown legendary great R&B Soul artist, Marvin Gaye, Nona Gaye, Blackstreet, Tyrese, Case, Charlie Wilson and Cam'ron.
Ray moved back to North Carolina in October of 2002, to teach music in Durham Public Schools and became the Assistant Minister of Music at Union Baptist Church in Durham, where he is currently the Minister of Music since 2009. He completed his Masters Of Divinity at Apex School Of Theology in May 2013. Ray puts God first in his life, which is evident in the content of his music and by the hush that takes over the room the moment his fingers begin to caress the keys; a true musician with a naturally acquired mastery of genius.
Ray is married to the former Lakecia Rochelle and is the father of two beautiful daughters - Brittany and Rhea.