JOHN MCLAUGHLIN WILLIAMS
“John McLaughlin Williams delivers absolutely masterful and deeply engrossing readings... In fact, Williams, a child prodigy who is also an accomplished violinist and is here making his recording debut, is a genuine find.” – Paul A. Snook (Fanfare) reviewing Williams conducting works by George Frederick McKay on Naxos
GRAMMY®Award-winning conductor John McLaughlin Williams (the first African-American conductor to win a GRAMMY®) has been critically acclaimed for his outstanding interpretive abilities and engaging podium presence. Equally at home with the standard literature and the great romantic and early modern music written by American composers, it was with the release of his acclaimed recordings on the Naxos label, that his conducting became familiar to listeners on both sides of the Atlantic. With the National Symphony and Radio Orchestras of Ukraine Williams has made world-première recordings of orchestral works by American composers both well-known and neglected for the Naxos label’s celebrated “American Classics” series. He has been critically hailed in international publications, among them Fanfare, Gramophone, Classic FM, International Record Review, American Record Guide, and the French recording journal Diapason. His recordings appear on the Naxos, TNC, Artek, Cambria, and Afka labels. His most recent release, Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works, recorded with Eliesha Nelson, appears on the Sono Luminus (formerly Dorian) label, as will his forthcoming recording of the complete violin works of Karl Weigl.
Additional recognition came from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2009 and 2011 when he was awarded further GRAMMY® nominations for his conducting in recordings of concerti by Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees with violinist Elmar Oliveira, and for Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works. In 1999 Williams received the Geraldine C. & Emory M. Ford Award for American Conductors.
Williams’s conducting experience includes appearances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Colorado Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Classic FM Symphony Orchestra (Sofia, Bulgaria), Kiev Philharmonic, Boston Lyric Opera/Opera New England, Boulder Philharmonic, the Cayman Arts Festival, Greenville Symphony, East Texas Symphony and the Britt Festival, where he served as assistant conductor. Williams holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music. There he studied conducting with Carl Topilow, music director of the National Repertory Orchestra and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and composition with Donald Erb and Margaret Brouwer.
Musically, Williams is as comfortable with popular material as he is with the classics. He’s conducted for R&B superstars Al Jarreau, Brian McKnight, and The Winans in “Christmas Glory”, a gospel Christmas concert production for the FOX and UPN television networks, and most recently he returned to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to conduct them in classical repertoire as well as in original arrangements for Blues legend Thornetta Davis.
Williams is an active violin soloist, pianist, and chamber musician. He began violin studies at age 10 in a Washington, DC public school. At age 14 he appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra. He studied with Dorothy Delay (teacher of Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Nigel Kennedy, and Midori, among others) at the New England Conservatory. As violin soloist, Williams has appeared with many orchestras, including the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, South Carolina Philharmonic, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
He served as concertmaster of the Virginia Symphony and was a member of the Houston Symphony. As guest concertmaster he has appeared with the Bolshoi Ballet, Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Youngstown Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra. He also has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and was assistant concertmaster of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.
Williams has recorded chamber music for the Afka label and jazz with the Max Roach Double Quartet. His composition credits include work with Michael Kamen (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard) for the soundtrack to Mr. Dreyfuss Goes to Washington, a documentary for the History Channel.