Music professor provokes student curiosity


Music professor Kenyon Williams plays an uncountable number of percussion instruments including steel and African drums. Photos courtesy of Kenyon Williams

Music professor Kenyon Williams encourages students to take their education and run with it.

He is known for his dedication and enthusiasm. When students take a class from Williams, they will be encouraged to get excited about something beyond the scope of the classroom.

“That’s my favorite kind of interaction. When a student’s got their own ideas and I’m able to fuel those ideas rather than having to force feed them ideas,” Williams said. “There’s a difference between seeing your professors as a resource and seeing them as an obstacle.”

Williams teaches percussion and the world music class, but his teaching doesn’t stop at the campus gate.

He is a principal percussionist in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, director of a nine-piece salsa band, director of the five-piece steel drum band Poco Fuego, piano teacher, and Bethel Evangelical Free Church bible class leader.

One of the most rewarding experiences Williams has encountered came on a Caribbean cruise ship performance with his world music class. His steel drum band performed Haitian music for an audience of native Puerto Ricans. The audience members were on their feet, moving to the music in no time. It was on that ship that Williams received one of the best compliments he has ever received.

“After the show, one Puerto Rican gentleman said to me: ‘When I heard a group of farm kids from Minnesota were coming and playing my music I wanted to come. I wanted to come so I could walk out. I came to walk out and instead, I wound up dancing,’” Williams said.

On sabbatical since fall semester, Williams has spent his time traveling and learning.

In January, he was in Trinidad playing with a 120-piece steel drum band at the largest steel band competition in the world. For February, he took his percussion trio on a tour of Minnesota and North Dakota. He helped write the music for a Bethel Evangelical Church original musical in March, and spent the first three weeks of April studying African drumming and dance in Ghana.

This fall, Williams will have a special class for students to learn African drumming. Percussion students will also play for any students who want to learn African dance.

These days, Williams is getting ready to release his first solo CD, crafted with the help of Ryan Jackson, MSUM music industry professor.

When he is not preparing for a show, or traveling the world, Williams can be found enjoying a night at home with his wife and two children.


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