There is a strange connection between art and humans–it is impactful and humans feel various kind of emotions when stimulated to an art style in the form of movement, visuals, and sound, etc. Knowing what inspires the artists to create the art is equally inspiring.
We talked to Monica Williams, a Bay Area flutist who has donned multiple roles of a performer, composer, and teacher when it comes to music. She has released her albums too, and her music has been recognized by various prestigious Awards organizations.
We talked about her interest in music, what inspires her and other things.
Well, I started my music training in the 6th grade when students were signing up for a band. I had not really had any exposure to it beforehand so it was really just something new to try. I picked the flute because I had heard the ‘Peter and the Wolf’ by Prokofiev as a kid, and remembered the flute as a bird. And that instrument seemed to suit me. Well once I got my flute and started practicing I was hooked, I would spend hours and hours in my room just playing.
2. You have worked as a session artist and as a composer as well. How has that experience been?
I love being in the studio! There is a lot of pressure. You want to get everything as beautiful as possible, but you have to do it under the clock. This is a situation where time is money. So actually I feel more pressure working as a session musician on other peoples projects. I want to make sure their vision is realized and get it as quick as possible at the same time! Doing ‘Journey of Tears’ was my most positive studio experience. John Herrera at Clamsville Productions put me at ease so we could truly create. Of course, having amazing musicians in that album also truly helped. Sherry Finzer joined me on ‘New Horizons’ on bass flute, while I played Native American Flute. It made for such a nice musical conversation. Darin Mahoney played guitar on two pieces- is wonderful artistry really made it inspiring for me to work with. And Alexa Nadramia added her ethereal vocals to the last track; she really set the mood of the track. I was so fortunate to be able to work with all of them.
3. What inspires you the most when it comes to creating new music?
My most rewarding creative process comes to me in one piece. I usually start out with an improvisation. Listening to the flute and the emotion and feelings I want to convey. I think the sound of the flute itself inspires me, I like to start with one note, and listen to the timbre and texture, then the melodies and harmonies flow. I am fortunate to own over 90 flutes, and I feel like each flute has a story to tell. That is the beginning of a new piece- and I feel as if it is a true gift- and love to share it with others.
4. You also teach music, Does that improve your own skills?
Yes!! I feel like a good teacher is always learning as well. We are never done learning until the day we die. I listen to my students. And try and understand the struggles, inspirations, and goals of every student. Teaching is the art of explaining something 100’s of different ways until the student can find a way to connect to the musical idea. In that process, I also learn new ways to create. I also find the process of teaching very rewarding, so I have a wonderful work to life balance- which helps the creative process as well.
5. Besides recognition and awards, what gives you the most satisfaction about your music?
Well lets face it awards are nice, LOL.. But really the stories of how others are connecting to the music are very rewarding. This is my first solo album, but I have worked with other ensembles in the New Age/World genre. Some of the stories were very powerful. We had someone tell us that they used some of the music in a playlist during their child’s birth and others that used it at the moment of passing. Music can be healing and hearing these stories is better than any award!
6. Share an incident were music helped get up again after facing a certain difficulty?
Well, there are many times. As I mentioned I believe music is healing. After a loss, whether it is a death or breakup there is often trapped emotion. I have often said that words are not my medium, music is. Right after a loss even playing music can be too much energy to handle. This is especially true for me because music is my work and passion all in one. So I will usually start by listening to a relaxing playlist or artist until I can get my bearings. (Heart Dance has many relaxing playlists for this). Then usually after a short period of time, I will be inspired to play again. I can then channel that emotion through the flute. Sometimes a great piece can come from that. ‘Raining Tears’ is an example of this. I wrote that piece after a long time friendship had dissolved. It was my expression of that loss in a musical form and was very healing.
7. Any message or advice for our young musicians?
Always follow your dreams! Music is very hard to quantify. It will always be subjective. You will have people that will love your music and you will have your fair share of critics. Learn to embrace that. Take only the advice that
resonates with you, and stay true to yourself. Try and surround yourself with positive people that lift you up. At the very least get rid of the people that are trying to pull you down. Believe in yourself, and dream big!