A Spotlight on Chelsea Williamson

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Williamson briefly when we were both enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University. She struck me as a deeply introspective person with an immense passion for her work.


Originally from Yukon, Oklahoma, Chelsea Williamson is a contemporary composer of instrumental music and a talented bassoonist. She is currently a DMA candidate in music composition at the University of Oklahoma. Williamson is a member of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, the Society of Composers, Composers and Schools in Concert, ASCAP, the College Music Society, and is an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma. Williamson holds a degree in music education from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master’s of music composition from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. About the decision to become a musician, Williamson says she “fell in love with music” in early childhood and “was very fortunate to have teachers who […] inspired [her] to pursue” it as a career. Although she did not originally intend to become a composer, the teaching of Dr. L. Keith White, Director of the School of Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, inspired her to explore the field further. “After a few lessons,” Williamson shared, “I was hooked.”

One major influence on Williamson’s composing career, was David Maslanka, an American composer known for his nine symphonies and works for wind ensemble. The two composers met during Williamson’s junior year at the University of Central Oklahoma. As part of a research project over Maslanka’s 5th symphony, she decided to email him with a few questions and was delighted by the timely and pleasant response. Shortly after their initial correspondence, Williamson gathered the courage to send her first work for wind ensemble, Until Our Rest, to Mr. Maslanka for advice. He returned the score within the week covered in notes with an additional five pages of thoughts attached. These brief communications were the beginning of a friendship that Williamson will always treasure. Although the two only met face-to-face once before Maslanka’s recent passing in 2017, Williamson is grateful for the encouragement and advice about both composition and life. “I think the most important thing he taught me,” she shared, “was to […] sit down and write every day, even if I don’t want to.”

Williamson most frequently composes works for wind band, but is interested in “breaking into other mediums, like ballet.” Her most recent works include Mountain Road (2016), Sonata for Bassoon (2016), Silhouettes (2016), and Rumi’s Words (2017). For inspiration, she uses the world around her; “art, another composer’s music, cities [she has] visited, or poetry [she’s] in love with.” Williamson appreciates the many travel opportunities that music provides. Most recently, she attended the Charlotte New Music Festival in North Carolina and also traveled to New York City with the Stephen F. Austin State University department of composition. About the importance of traveling, Williamson shared, “there is always something happening and plenty of new music to be inspired by.” Currently, she is working on her first piano sonata and her first symphony for wind ensemble. As for her long-term goals, Williamson shared that she is “looking forward to teaching composition at a university in the future” and encourages aspiring composers to “be receptive to the music and work towards your goals every day.” 


Follow Chelsea Williamson at www.chelseawilliamsoncomposer.com (or on Facebook @chelseawilliamsoncomposer)


Book Suggestions  

“Adventures of an American Composer: An Autobiography” Michael Colgrass

Purchase Here


“Words Without Music” Philip Glass

Purchase Here


Recording Suggestions

 “Violin Concerto” Jennifer Higdon

Purchase Here


“Partita for 8 Voices” Caroline Shaw

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“Rainbow Body” Christopher Theofanidis

Purchase Here