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Music Composition Student Oscar Williams Jr. Performs on Worldwide Stages

Williams and Gospel Group Perfected Praise Selected to Tour in The 2010 Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad Grogram

by Chris Calloway (B.M. Performance '12)
Current SMU composition Master’s student Oscar Williams Jr. has been asked a couple of times during his first year of study at Meadows, “Why are you here?” Indeed, talking with him, one realizes how much experience the composer, choreographer, producer, clinician, teacher, and arranger already has. One of only three gospel groups to ever perform at the Vatican and for the Pope, Williams and Perfected Praise have also traveled internationally under famed promoter Antonio Ciacca, who has worked with such artists as Ray Charles, BB King and Steve Lacey. Williams and his group caught Ciacca’s attention while in Italy, and he sent them on a worldwide tour in both 2003 and 2004. Williams has also had the chance to sing onstage with Grammy winner Jason Mraz. Most recently, Williams and Perfected Praise were selected as one of ten groups to serve as ambassadors of American music to tour in the 2010 Rhythm Road American Music Abroad program. A joint project by Jazz at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Dept. of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Rhythm Road presents quintessentially American music to overseas audiences, promoting cross-cultural understanding and exchange in countries that aren’t regularly visited by American musicians.

So with all these experiences and connections, why has he come back to the academic realm at SMU to study composition? “The music business is very competitive, and I came to SMU to sharpen my composition skills,” Williams said. “For instance, music has opened up recently to include many different sounds and mediums. Coming back to school will give me more tools to work with in making my compositions best represent my artistic interests.” Currently studying with Professor Simon Sargon, Williams is working on a cello sonata with piano that will be included in the upcoming student composers’ concert April 17 in Caruth Auditorium.

As for the upcoming Rhythm Road tour with Perfected Praise, Williams will be responsible for representing American gospel music in Eastern Europe and Russia. He will participate in public performances, master classes, jam sessions, workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and collaborations with local musicians. In addition to his activities abroad, Williams and Perfected Praise will perform in Washington, D.C., on April 22 in a concert presented by the National Geographic Society, and in New York City on April 24 at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

With the culmination of all these musical endeavors, the ever-creative Williams has had another goal over the last few years: to script a reality TV series. “It will be called Hit Makers,” he said of the series. “And that is all I’m going to tell you right now.” Although he has not found someone to produce and direct the series, he has never been told “no” to his idea. “As long as there is a ‘maybe’ there is still a chance one day this script will find its way to someone who will run with it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dallas audiences can hear Williams’ newly created cello/piano composition Love’s Dance at the “Emerging Sounds” annual student composers’ concert, to be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 17 in Caruth Auditorium. For more information, call the Division of Music at 214-768-1951.

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