The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.
Today, we feature Ellis Williams. Ellis is an independent recording artist and Carnival Cruise Line musician in South Carolina.
What instrument do you play?
At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?
Why did you start playing?
Before I ever picked up the horn, I was always interested in hearing myself on a record. My mother was a recording artist who let me sit in on her studio sessions when I was as young as 4 years old. I sang in community choirs up until middle school where I picked up the trumpet and I instantly fell in love with the instrument.
What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?
Music was an incredible journey throughout grade school. I learned about music history in elementary school, how to make music in middle school, and developed my musicianship during high school. I was blessed to have had great teachers who brought out my hidden potential.
Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?
This is a hard one to answer, but, I would have to say my second high school director, Mr. Andres Navarro. He was the closest thing I had to a big brother at the time and he showed up during a period where I was beginning to doubt myself musically. Navarro was only 23 years old when he took over our program and quickly saw all the good I could do. Navarro gave me countless opportunities to explore my talent and strive. What makes him my favorite is the fact that he was never too busy to talk or give me advice. Navarro taught me never to settle with my accomplishments and to continue to push my skills to higher levels.
What is your favorite band memory from grade school?
The memory that always stands out for me is the day I won my first major award in a music program. In middle school I was awarded with the Musicianship Award for my second year. To this day I remember the feeling of complete happiness to know that I was acknowledged for all of the hard work I put into the trumpet. I believe the only thing that will top that moment in my life will be when I win the Grammy.
Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?
I stuck to trumpet as my main instrument during my time at Grambling State and Norfolk State University. Music had a huge impact on my college choices the day I had a talk with my music teacher about my future. As a student, I wanted a college program that challenged me both as a musician and as a person. I got that challenge while at NSU.
What is your current occupation?
I am an independent recording artist and a musician for M-One Studios/Carnival Cruise Lines.
How has music helped you in your current occupation?
My occupation has played more of a role in helping my music. Traveling the world with Carnival has given me the opportunity to meet so different entertainers who have influenced my music. I have become a better entertainer thanks to the diverse crowds and cultures that I encountered.
How has music played a part in your adult life?
Music is my therapist. Without it, I do not know where I would be today. As adults, many of us try to find ways to escape our realities through music. Music has given me the ability to embrace my reality and the piece of mind to know that this is what I am meant to do!
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Don't be afraid to fail. Take all risks that comes with the opportunity. As long as you have a plan of attack you will ALWAYS achieve your goals. I would rather live with the regret of a missed note than the regret of wondering what could have been if I would have taken the gig!
I have recently released my second album, Call to Battle, that is available for purchase at all fine retailers.
For more information on my current events and performances, please visit my website: EllisWilliamsMusic.com