Meet Nicholas Williams, Associate Director of Performance – Ensemble Studies at the Melbourne Conservatorium

Associate Professor of Music Nicholas Williams. By Giulia McGauran.
Associate Professor of Music Nicholas Williams. By Giulia McGauran.

Dr Nicholas Enrico Williams is an Associate Professor of Music, Music Director and Conductor of the Wind Symphony and Concert Band at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. His teaching credits include being Assistant Director of Wind Studies, Conductor of the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and the Director of Athletic Bands at the University of North Texas. He also spent a decade as the Conductor of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra Wind Symphony.

Williams is an advocate for chamber music, a prolific conductor and arranger, and a sought-after recording session producer. Here, we talk to him about what makes a great performance.

Hi Nicholas, can you tell us about who you are and what you stand for?

I’m a conductor, wind band enthusiast, music educator, and student leadership mentor. Music is my greatest passion. It reaches every aspect of my being. I moved to Melbourne in July 2019 from a position at the University of North Texas. Coming to Melbourne has been one of the highlights of my life – personally and professionally.

Can you tell us a bit about your current work?

As Associate Professor of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, I focus my creative and research energies on growing and advancing wind band activity in Australia. One goal of performances by the Wind Symphony and Concert Band is to show the Australian classical music community that the Wind Symphony is a medium for serious artistic expression – and is awesome to hear live!

Is there a philosophy or piece of advice that has held you in good stead throughout your career?

Hard work and talent will take you places. If you lack in one area, focus more on the other. Being a good person, a dependable colleague, and a team player is as important as your musical talent.

Pandemic travel restrictions aside, how important is it for artists to develop international connections and experience?  

Now more than ever it’s important for artists to have the stage to express what is inside of them, not only for our local communities, but also globally. Something positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic is a renewed sense of humanity. The pandemic has created a more important reason to reconnect musicians and artists around the world. The level of global collaboration, especially electronically, has never been better.

The University of Melbourne Wind Symphony perform at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Image by Sav Schulman, 2021.

What was the experience of conducting the Wind Symphony after lockdown like?  

Our students recently made a return to live performance at the prestigious Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. The experience of conducting at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was phenomenal. I will always remember the energy and elated facial expressions of the students after the concert finished. It was a fantastic night for music-making in Melbourne. The Wind Symphony students performed beautifully. After 2020, it’s hard to put into words how important it is for staff and students to resume one of our primary tasks, which is to rehearse, learn, and perform for and with each other.

What makes a good Melbourne Conservatorium of Music student?

Being hard-working, open-minded, teachable, dependable, inquisitive and willing to help.

Can you complete this sentence with some explanation: If I wasn’t working in music ...

I’d be a professional chef.

What excites you about your field?

The aspect of the role here that excites me most is being a part of the team that is preparing tertiary student musicians for their future in the music performance and music education professions. A major part of my job is to help improve the students’ musicianship and support them to be better citizens in our society.