Conductor, composer and percussionist Don Williams

In this article, I would like to introduce you to an important musical friend of mine, Don Williams. Exactly…  the younger brother of film composer John Williams. Not as famous, but certainly no less talented than his musical brother!

Don Williams is an American conductor, arranger, composer and percussionist, and one of the vital links in the development of my album The L.A. Project.

Don Williams (Donald J. Williams to be precise) grew up in L.A. in an extraordinarily musical family. Father Johnny Williams had made a name for himself as a jazz drummer – as a member of the Raymond Scott Quintet, among others –  and introduced Don, his brothers John and Jerry, and sister Joan to music from an early age. After graduating from the Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Don was offered a scholarship to attend the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Under the wings of percussion teachers such as Fred Hinger and Gerry Carlyss, he developed as a musician. Returning home to L.A. he continued his studies with noted TV composer Albert Harris, which led to work in various film, television and other media projects. Williams has toured or recorded with Bob Hope, Tom Jones, The Supremes, Diana Ross and many other stars.

percussionist Don Williams

Apart from his work for several major Spielberg films and broadway shows such as Cats en Evita, he is no stranger to classical music either. Don Williams has performed with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera and Pennsylvania Ballet Company and for over 30 years, he’s worked with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony and Pacific Symphony.

Just a few highlights from the vast and wonderful work of this brilliant musical talent. And yet he isn’t nearly as well-known as his brother John. John Williams is probably the most successful, famous and maybe even best film composer of all time. He wrote the music to box-office hits like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Superman, Jurassic Park, ET, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter, to name but a few…!  An astonishing fifty nominations eventually led to five Oscars. His son Joe is the lead singer of Toto.

During my visit to L.A. (see: A bumpy start to our ‘American Dream’) I met Don through Chiz Harris (see About the musician Chiz Harris). Don, who’d grown accustomed to people using him to get in touch with his famous brother, fortunately noticed quite quickly that this was not the case with us. We simply clicked, and developed a friendship that has lasted to this day!

Apart from friendship, there was also musical collaboration, of course. Thanks to his name and vast musical network, Don was able to put us in contact with the best musicians and companies. He conducted the performance of two of our songs (Tonight and To Know You Is To Love You, arranged by Jan Wessels of the Metropole Orchestra) with the Schubert Ensemble, one of the best classical ensembles in L.A. Together with Chiz, he also performed the percussion for several songs on the album. After our musical adventure in L.A. had come to an end, we continued our collaboration. During his visits to Europe, he contributed to the CD recording of Living On a Line by Mirage, as well as various workshops and performances in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

He rarely talked about his life in the shadow of, but there’s one remark I’ll never forget: ”My life, private and musically, it’s like living in a golden cage…”

Don remains active in the music scene, and we still keep in touch. A fabulous musician and a warm person. I hope I’ll be able to enjoy his friendship for a long time to come.

For more information on Don Williams, visit:  http://www.donaldjwilliams.com/

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