President Clinton once said “You gotta sound bad before you can sound good” to a class of beginning instrumental students in Milwaukee. Mark Williams undoubtedly would disagree.
Mark Williams, one of Alfred Publishing’s most successful composers and arrangers, a self proclaimed “Band Geek” at heart who had a passion for empowering teachers to give beginning music students the best chance for success, passed away tragically on January 3, 2008. He was 52 years old.
Since March is Music in our Schools month it is only fitting to pay tribute to the life of someone who actually was responsible for bringing music into our schools.
Mark was one of the premier composers for school bands and orchestras. Co-author of the Accent on Achievement Band Method, he had over 200 published works to his credit. As a clinician and guest conductor, he traveled to 34 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and Australia.
Mark was born in Chicago and grew up in Spokane, Washington. He held the Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Education degrees from Eastern Washington University. He taught music in the state of Washington for many years, specializing in elementary band. Renowned for his compositions for band and orchestra, Mr. Williams earned numerous awards including the Western International Band Clinic's Gralia Competition and several ASCAP Special Awards. In addition to his writing and travel schedule, Mark performed regularly on all woodwinds and served as Conductor and Artistic Director for the Spokane British Brass Band.
I do not profess to know Mark personally. He and I met a few times over the years at conferences. I do, however, know of his work and impact on beginning instrumental music because of my wife, Nora, who teaches beginning instrumental music at an elementary school in Watchung, NJ (and is an excellent music educator if I do say so myself!)
When Nora and I would head off to a music education conference Nora would make a beeline to the Alfred booth to learn about the latest Mark Williams compositions. Rarely a concert would occur where there wasn’t a Mark Williams orchestration on the program. She raved about his work. She was one voice in a chorus of thousands!
Mark Williams has had an immeasurable impact on beginning music programs across the nation. I suspect there isn’t an instrumental music educator who HASN’T performed one of his works. Millions of students have learned how to finger a scale, play a crescendo, or understand a rhythm through the renowned method book he co-authored with John O’Reilly for Alfred Publishing – Accent on Achievement.
Knowing the influence Mark has had in our own community and across the nation I decided to call John O’Reilly, his editor and writing partner of more than 20 years to help me understand the man behind the masthead.
After a rather lengthy hiatus, am back in the saddle! Just in time for Music in Our Schools Month!
Lot's to talk about... lot's to share... from the presidential campaign trail, to research, to funding issues, to the evolving role of music and the arts in our schools.
Here we go!