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Jamaican violinist takes bow in Europe - Jovani Williams tours with YOA Orchestra of the Americas

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Jovani Williams (second left) playing with the National Youth Orchaetra of Jamaica.
The father and son duo of Jon (right) and Jovani Williams.

Jamaican violinist Jovani Williams is currently on a tour of the Baltic States of northern Europe, flying Jamaica's flag as a member of the YOA Orchestra of the Americas.

Williams, 19 years old, is only the second Jamaican to have made the YOA Orchestra of the Americas. He follows in the footsteps of violinist Gabriel Walters, who did so two years ago.

"It has been an honour," he told The Gleaner. "I am literally representing Jamaica because I am the only Jamaican on this tour."

Williams was selected from a field of more than 1,300 people - the highest ever - who auditioned to fill 80 positions on the YOA Orchestra of the Americas this year. "I am really honoured to have been selected to represent Jamaica and will definitely represent as best as I can," Williams said.

The tour has so far taken Williams to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. He will visit Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany before returning home on August 3. "It has been amazing! For me personally, I love to perform and I love to be able to play and the audience is able to enjoy it," he said.

Williams only started to play the violin at 13 years old. He told The Gleaner that "it wasn't really a passion of mine ... . It was almost as if I started music by coincidence." But having seen his siblings playing the instrument, young Williams accompanied them to class, and within six months, he was winning trophies.

His father, Jon Williams, is a noted composer, but Jovani feels no pressure to be like him. Noting that they play together in Jamaica, the younger Williams said that "every now and again, a person would come and say, 'Oh you are taking over your father's shoes', or things like that, but that has never been on my mind".

"He brings his own flavour and I bring my own flavour, so I just try to be the best that I can be," he said.




Mark Gillespie, general manager and creative director of the YOA Orchestra of the Americas, said that with musicians like Williams, "the next chapter in the history of classical music will be written about our side of the world - the Americas".

"The emergence of symphony orchestras as a vehicle for social inclusion in regions of the Americas that no one expected is inverting what people imagine classical music to be and shifting the poles of power," Gillespie added.

In 2014, the YOA Orchestra toured Jamaica and played to capacity crowds at Emancipation Park in New Kingston and the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke, a member of the board of the YOA Orchestra and chairman of the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), said, "Jovani has been an inspiration to young kids in NYOJ's music for social change programme.

"His selection from an extremely competitive pool of very talented musicians across the hemisphere is yet another tangible demonstration of the deep reservoir of talent that Jamaica possesses. We hope that Jovani's success motivates other young Jamaicans to apply to tour with this prestigious orchestra in the future," Clarke said.

Williams is hoping that more Jamaicans will become more exposed to classical music.

"I guess it is up to people like me or the Youth Orchestra of the Americas to go out there and share and get them aware. In the future, I feel that will definitely be one of my roles - to be able to make classical music shine in Jamaica," the touring violinist said.