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In Memoriam: B. Michael Williams

Sep 5, 2020, 16:46 PM by Rhythm Scene Staff

B. Michael WilliamsB. Michael Williams, who was Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina from 1979 to 2016, died on Sept. 4, 2020.

He held a B.M. degree from Furman University, M.M. from Northwestern University, and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Active as a performer and clinician in symphonic and world music, Williams performed with the Charlotte (N.C.) Symphony, Lansing (Mich.) Symphony, Brevard Music Center Festival Orchestra, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and appeared at several PASICs. He wrote articles for Accent Magazine, South Carolina Musician, and Percussive Notes, was a former Associate Editor (world percussion) for Percussive Notes, made scholarly presentations on the music of John Cage and on African music at meetings of the College Music Society and Percussive Arts Society, and contributed a chapter to the Cambridge Companion to Percussion titled “African Influences on Western Percussion Performance and Pedagogy.” In 2004, Dr. Williams received the Winthrop University Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor given to a Winthrop faculty member. Under his direction, the Winthrop University World Percussion Ensemble performed a showcase concert at PASIC as winners of the 2012 PAS International World Percussion Ensemble Competition. He was given the Outstanding PAS Service Award in 2017.

A composer of innovative works for percussion, his “Four Solos for Frame Drums” was among the first published compositions for the medium. Additional works to his credit include “Three Shona Songs” for marimba ensemble, “Recital Suite for Djembe,” “Bodhran Dance” and “Another New Riq.” His book, Learning Mbira: A Beginning, utilized a unique tablature notation for the Zimbabwean mbira dzavadzimu, and it has been acclaimed as an effective tutorial method for the instrument. Williams’ 4-volume set of 16 mbira transcriptions titled MbiraTab continued the series. Among his other compositions are “Rhythmic Journey No. 1: Conakry to Harare” for solo tar, “Rhythmic Journey No. 2: The Cage Sieve” for solo bodhrán, and “Rhythmic Journey No. 3: Post-Minimal” for solo riq, all published by Bachovich Music Publications. His 2005 CD recording, BataMbira, with Grammy-nominated percussionist and producer Michael Spiro, has been featured on National Public Radio, The Voice of America, and other broadcasts worldwide.

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