Joshua Williams

UA doctoral candidate Joshua Williams won first place in the International Horn Competition of America in 2017.
UA doctoral candidate Joshua Williams won first place in the International Horn Competition of America in 2017.

In seventh grade, Tuscaloosa-native Joshua Williams was told that he needed to wait a year to play football so he could participate in spring training. Instead, he forged his own path and joined his school’s band, where he picked up a French horn.

Now, he’s one of the best horn players in the world.

As an undergraduate and now doctoral candidate at UA, Williams practiced constantly to achieve success. But the hours of rehearsals paid off after his performance at the International Horn Competition of America last year, where he won top prize, beating out the National Symphony Orchestra’s Markus Osterlund and Jorge Mejia of the Bogotá Symphony Orchestra.

“During the final round performance, I just got lost in the music,” Williams said. “The audience reaction was incredible. I’d have to say it was one of the most incredible moments of my life, for sure.”

That moment spurred him into international fame. Williams spent the past year playing events around the country. Recently, he was invited to be a featured soloist with the Detroit Symphony.

The horn virtuoso’s future looks brighter than ever before, giving him the opportunity to do more solo performing. But eventually, he wants to share his knowledge with others.

“I want to do a little bit of everything,” Williams said. “I enjoy giving recitals, traveling the world, and performing. But I eventually want to be a college horn professor. I really love teaching. Teaching is my passion.”

2020 Update

Joshua Williams and his French Horn.
Joshua Williams (photo: Arielle Gray)

Since his win at the International Horn Competition of America, Williams has focused on what drives him: sharing his craft. Williams performed at the International Horn Symposium as a featured artist, where he premiered a new piece as a soloist with the United States Army Field Band. He also performed in key roles with the Detroit and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras, and performed at schools, universities, and conservatories across the country as a guest artist and lecturer.

But perhaps the most significant work Williams has completed over the past few years was with the Atlanta Music Project, a tuition-free music education program for K-12 students to empower underserved youth through music. Here, Williams served as AMP Academy Program Associate, where he organized the largest recital for the program to date, organized community outreach events, and trained students for auditions for major events, such as the Georgia All-State Orchestra and YOLA National Festival.

“The mission of this organization is something that really caught my eye,” Williams said. “I think it makes a lot of sense, especially in the classical music field. Representation matters a lot for students. To have leaders and mentors who come from the same backgrounds helps them visualize themselves as professional musicians, teachers, or whatever they might want to be.”

Over the next several months, Williams will complete his doctoral program in music performance at UA. He will also release his first album, Suitable for Dancing, in spring 2021.