National Citation of Excellence – Stephen Williams

Me portraitRecently, ABODA NSW Member Mr Stephen Williams was awarded the ABODA National Citation of Excellence.  This prestigious award was presented by ABODA National President-elect Dr Luke Gilmour in December, 2014 prior to Mr Williams departing with the NSW DEC Arts Unit for a US Tour including a performance at the 2014 Midwest Clinic.  Here is a transcript of the speech by Dr Gilmour in honour of Mr Stephen Williams.

Good evening Parents, Teachers, Arts Unit Staff and most importantly the students of these amazing ensembles. Tonight is first and foremost a celebration of the students and so I will not take long. However, I did want to take a moment on behalf of the National Board of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors’ Association (ABODA) to acknowledge one of our members, Mr Stephen Williams, with a National Citation of Excellence.

The citation of excellence is the highest award available to members of ABODA and recognises outstanding personal achievement. It represents peer recognition of the work of the recipient both in Australia and overseas, for both ABODA and the music community. But it is more than just patting one of our own on the back, it is a recognition of the enormous output and investment Stephen has given to instrumental music education in Australia.

The conductor’s role in performance is silent and yet you can hear their voice with absolute clarity all over any performance. The engineering and crafting of musically significant performances can be traced back to the leadership of whoever is on the the podium. Step into any Williams rehearsal and you will see a leader who is a motivator, clown, encourager, fearless, petrified (though you wouldn’t see it), calm, insistent and stand up comic – often all in the space of five minutes. Stephen has exhibited over many years the steady hands of an expert craftsman and master tactician in order to extract maximum musical potency and expression from those students in front of him.

I have had the pleasure of working with Stephen first as a soloist in the 2000 School Spectacular where I witnessed the many wisecracks directed towards saxophonists! I then renewed by acquaintance with Steve some years later through working as a tutor and conductor with The Arts Unit and finally as a colleague in conducting the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony. I will be forever grateful for the amount of hours he invested into my own musical development, often over a glass of his favorite red cordial!

This investment into others has been multiplied exponentially over several decades. For over 30 years Mr Stephen Williams has worked tirelessly to further develop Bands and Orchestras both in both performance and education of students and directors. The amount of students that have been impacted both directly in front of Steve or in front of of the many conductors he has mentored would be immeasurable…easily surpassing 100,000. All of the current NSW ABODA Executive have been mentored by Steve in some way and his ability to inspire excellence and transfer that desire into others is one of his many strengths.

Through his work as a conductor and educator of ensembles of all standards, Stephen has attained an outstanding profile both nationally and internationally. Since his first presentation at a National Conference in 1992, Stephen has regularly presented at ABODA conferences, workshops and conducting schools. He has worked with ABODA NSW, ABODA WA and ABODA Victoria to provide masterclasses, workshops, and keynote addresses. Stephen has also been an active contributor of articles to many publications.

At the national level, Stephen has achieved success with various ensembles including, but not limited to the Australian Wind Orchestra, NSW Public Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony and Sydney Wind Orchestra. Under Stephen’s direction these ensembles have achieved a performance standard recognised as truly outstanding by musicians and audiences alike. You are witness to this tonight.

Stephen has earned a reputation of excellence on the international stage, both as a conductor and educator. Stephen is regularly engaged to provide workshops and concerts internationally and has conducted concerts at many international conferences including the World Association of Symphonic Band Educators (WASBE), CBDNA South-Western Conference and the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. Stephen is the only Australian conductor to present three concerts at the prestigious Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic – 1993 Australian Wind Orchestra, Co-Conductor; 2007 NSW Public Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Chief Conductor and an upcoming performance in 2014 again with the NSW Public Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble as Chief Conductor. This remarkable achievement has earned Stephen an international reputation of excellence, but more so, has developed a strong global interest, respect and awareness of ensembles in Australia.

As a pioneer of new works, Stephen has performed and/or recorded a large volume of World and Australian Premieres by both Australian and International composers. His commitment to new works, particularly that of Australian composers has helped to develop a commitment from composers to write significant works for performance.

Stephen is a tireless, humble and selfless educator and mentor of conductors of all standards, backgrounds and abilities. He has presented professional learning classes for beginner conductors, intermediate conductors, advanced conductors, orchestral conductors and big band directors. His ability to connect with conductors of all abilities is inspirational and is appreciated by all those learning from him. In addition to courses presented by the NSW Department of Education and Communities, Stephen has presented a significant number of learning opportunities for conductors for ABODA nationally since 1992. This ongoing commitment to educating and mentoring young conductors is an exemplary display of commitment to the philosophy and objectives of the Australian National Band and Orchestra Directors Association.

Through his work he has, and continues to raise the profile of Australian music, Australian Composers, Australian Conductors and Australian Ensembles both nationally and internationally. Stephen, please accept this small token of the Conductor community’s appreciation of everything you have done to enhance what we do and the lives of the students we are in front of. Whilst awards like this are often presented at the culmination of a career, I encourage you to think that you are only just getting started and the best is yet to come!

Thank you.


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