Artist Spotlight

Molly Wilson

Evan Williams, a senior music composition major from Matteson, Ill., seems to have gotten involved in just about every aspect of the conservatory he could manage.
You may have heard his compositions in previous New Music at Lawrence concerts, or perhaps you noticed him playing trombone in Wind Ensemble; maybe you saw him at opera rehearsal or simply heard what is arguably the best laugh in the conservatory. Or maybe you saw him conduct the Lawrence Symphonic Band in “Variations on a Shaker Melody” by Aaron Copland last winter.
Starting from humble beginnings – playing trombone in fifth-grade band – Williams soon turned to composing, writing his first piece, “Williamson Overture” – “because my last name is Williams” – with the guidance of his eighth-grade band teacher.
Williams discovered Lawrence completely by chance at a college fair. The Harvard table was too busy, so he and his mother meandered over to the Lawrence table, and the rest is history.
Williams cites the Romantic era – particularly the work of Mahler and Beethoven – as his major influence, though he also incorporates 12-tone techniques and free atonality.
Said Williams, “I guess it’s called neo-romanticism. I try to make the music mean something and speak, so it’s a combination of atonality with romantic ideas of music.”
Inspired by Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” Williams has begun composing several short operas based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. He recently recorded selections from “The Fall of the House of Usher” with an all-student orchestra and cast.
Last year, Williams was named a McNair Scholar as part of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. The McNair program seeks to assist minorities who are underrepresented at the doctoral level with entering graduate school.
As a McNair Scholar, Williams spent the summer researching and writing a 34-page paper on the last few months of Franz Schubert’s life and his last set of songs, “Schwanengesang, or “Swan Song.” Williams became interested in the subject because, as he said, “Schubert didn’t write much; we haven’t found a journal. We have second-hand accounts and we have music.”
So where will we be hearing Williams next? A piece he wrote for mezzo-soprano and piano will be performed at the New Music concert Nov. 15, and in the spring, pieces of his will be performed in Adrienne Gallagher’s and Jarrad Bittner’s senior recitals. If you cannot wait that long, you can always catch his radio show with Jacob Horn, “Rumors on the Internets,” Sundays 6-8 p.m. on our own WLFM.