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Jan Williams

Jan Williams

Jan Williams is a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.


Jan Williams is a percussion soloist and conductor, who has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Composers such as Lukas Foss, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Joel Chadabe, Morton Feldman, Orlando Garcia, Gustavo Matamoros, Luis de Pablo, Frederic Rzewski, Nils Vigeland, and Iannis Xenakis have all written music expressly for Jan Williams.

Born in Utica, New York on July 17, 1939, Williams later earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at Manhattan School of Music, where he studied percussion with Paul Price and performed as a member of the American Symphony Orchestra from 1962-1964 under conductor Leopold Stokowski. He was invited to Buffalo as one of the first class of Creative Associates for the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in 1964 at the University at Buffalo.

While at the University at Buffalo, he created the University at Buffalo Percussion Ensemble in 1964. Later, in 1967, he was appointed to the Music Faculty, and served as Chair of the Music Department from 1981-1984. Prior to his retirement in 1996, he also served as artistic director of the Center of the Creative and Performing arts from 1974-1979 and as resident conductor from 1979-1980.

He is Professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo where he and John Bergamo founded the University at Buffalo Percussion Ensemble in 1964.  He was the ensemble’s director until his retirement in 1996. He is Trustee of the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. He has recorded for Columbia, Vox/Turnabout, Desto, Lovely Music, Spectrum, Wergo, DGG, Orion, Hat-Art, OO, New World, Deep Listening, EMF Media, and Mode Records. With Yvar Mikhashoff, he was Co-Artistic Director of the North American New Music Festival from 1983-1993.