The Wilson Beacon

Beloved choir director Lori Williams to resign and pursue jazz career

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Beloved choir director Lori Williams to resign and pursue jazz career

Courtesy of Lori Williams

Courtesy of Lori Williams

Courtesy of Lori Williams

Anna Dueholm

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After 15 years of teaching and nurturing Wilson students, choir director Lori Williams has decided to leave Wilson next year. She plans to pursue her music career full-time.

Williams began working at Wilson in 2004. She was asked by then Wilson Assistant Principal Dr. Kenneth Dickerson to lead the choir at the graduation ceremony. That day, former Principal Dr. Tarason announced that Williams would be Wilson’s new full-time choir director. “That was a fun moment, especially since I hadn’t interviewed for the position,” she recalled. Williams already had 13 years of teaching experience under her belt at the time, having started her teaching career in Japan in 1991.

Outside of school, Williams is a professional jazz musician. Her recent album, “Out of the Box,” topped UK Soul Charts in September and was considered for a Grammy. Williams regularly performs throughout the DC area, around the country, and in Europe. Next year, Williams plans to focus on her new album and family. “My prayer is to pursue music full-time when I leave Wilson, and hopefully I’ll be successful in the jazz community,” she explained.

After one semester at Wilson, Williams began teaching choir. “I’ve enjoyed it ever since,” she exclaimed. She helps her students hone their vocals and prepares them for semi-annual concerts: the Holiday Splendor in December and the Spring Concert around March.

Her early days with the choir were some of Williams’ favorites. She fondly remembers one of their first trips: the Heritage Choir Festival trip to Philadelphia.“I had a very talented, lively bunch of students,” she explained.

Williams treats her choir as a family. “I come to the classroom knowing I’m a mom first,” she said. “I bring that approach to teaching, and I know I don’t take the place of people’s moms, but that’s just kinda my niche.” Her community-based approach is highly valued by students. “It’s a great feeling—being in a home environment and still being able to enjoy music,” Alum Carols Hood, class of 2015, said in a video commemorating Williams.

This familial atmosphere still holds strong today. “Ms. Williams treats all of her classes like a family,” junior Woodfen McLean said. “To her, we’re all her kids and she does everything she can to help us succeed.” Junior Sophia Kennedy agreed emphatically, explaining, “I don’t think I would’ve had the same experience if she weren’t here.”

Former Wilson substitute teacher Sharon Bell Mathis is a close family friend and has witnessed firsthand the passion Williams brings into the classroom. “She believes in the young people.”

A main source of Williams’ passion for teaching choir is the opportunity to witness student growth since students can take the class for all four years. “I try to empower a lot of my students to take the reins even if I’m not here,” she said. Her emphasis on growth has led to results. “She always pushed me and always saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, which made me work even harder,” sophomore Avery Wright said.

Getting the chance to watch her students’ future is important for Williams. “Seeing my students excel beyond high school in any musical capacity is the best reward,” she said.

The loss of Williams’ presence will not go unnoticed. “Ms. Williams was a really, really big part of making my years at Wilson enjoyable,” Kennedy said, “I don’t think it’ll be the same if she isn’t here.” Sophomore Nikki Keating echoed these sentiments, “I’m really sad she’s going to be gone,” stressing,  “She was a really integral part of music and theater at Wilson.”

Unsurprisingly, the feelings are mutual. “I’ll miss working with my students in choir and observing their growth,” Williams said. For anyone interested in keeping up with Williams and her future professional accomplishments, her website is LoriJazz.com.

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Beloved choir director Lori Williams to resign and pursue jazz career