Wiley John Williams

Born: Mon., Dec. 14, 1936
Died: Thu., Apr. 8, 2021


Memorial Service


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Music by The Piano Brothers


Wiley John Williams was a native of Shreveport, Louisiana where he studied violin, piano, and art. He was concertmaster his HS senior year of the Louisiana All State Orchestra.  He played trumpet and bass drum in his high school band, later changing to bassoon. BM and MM degrees were earned from the University of North Texas as a pupil of Silvio Scionti and Jack Roberts. He attended the Yale University Summer School of Music. He held previous teaching positions at Southwest Texas State College and the University of South Dakota.  He studied for several years with eminent pianists Frank Mannheimer and Denise Lassimonne in England. 

 

Mr. Williams taught piano and bassoon at the University of South Carolina School of Music faculty from 1968 to 2006.  He was a featured piano soloist at the MTNA National Convention, the American Matthay Association National Convention, the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society Convention, and on bassoon at the National conventions of MTNA, MENC, the French Historical Society, and the International Double Reed Society.  As a bassoonist, he was a member of the Carolina Camerata Woodwind Quintet and principal bassoonist with the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra and many regional orchestras.  He was a founding member of a local chamber series, The Chamber Pots.  

 

Mr. Williams restored a number of fine instruments including an 1890 Buffet French bassoon and two grand pianos – an 1862 Erard, and an 1885 Bechstein.  He wrote the libretto for the opera GABRIEL for composer  Gordon (Dick) Goodwin and played bass in several jazz groups.  He also had a passion for rebuilding Corvairs and was actively involved in CORSA (the Corvair Society Society of America).  And he was well-known for his clever caricatures, irreverent spoofs, and poems.

 

He performed solo recitals featuring composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin.  With the UofSC Orchestra, he performed a bassoon concerto composed for him by Richard Maltz.  He studied and wrote a treatise on the life of Henry Bellaman, a musical pioneer who lived in Columbia, SC.

 

Mr. Williams appeared as soloist on numerous occasions with the SC Philharmonic and UofSC Orchestras.  When he performed the Rachmaninoff Concerto #3 with the Philharmonic, the State newspaper review said of this performance:  Williams’ work at the piano was absolutely brilliant, a performance which staggers ones powers of description.  He was by turn fiery, powerful, tenderly lyrical, romantic and passionate.  His faultless technique at the keyboard was marvelously controlled by exquisite taste and by interpretive artistry of the highest order.

 

Johns contributions as a teacher will be everlasting as evidenced by his far-flung influence with students in Europe and the United States.  He possessed the ability to solve problems and defuse difficult situations.  His students remember him as teacher, friend, humorist of great wit, and a big man with an extraordinarily big heart.   In fact, many friends and family remember him with a quote from Downton Abbey”—“His kindness changed many lives.

 

John made his debut on December 14, 1936 and exited on April 8, 2021.  He is survived by his wife, Voncille, stepsons Mark Streetman, Jonathan and Joel Driver, daughter Shari Judy, her husband Brian, his sister Faith Love and her husband Kevin. John was predeceased by his first wife, Becky, his brother Steve,  and his son Jack.  

 

The family has suggested that in lieu of flowers, contributions to the John Williams Scholarship Fund at the UofSC School of Music would be appreciated.  You may send donations c/o Caroline Earp, University of SouthCarolina, School of Music, 813 Assembly Street, Columbia SC 29208.  Please make your check payable to the School of Music and indicate it is for the John Williams Scholarship Fund.

 

There will be an outdoor celebration of Johns life at 11:00 a.m. on May 1, 2021.  This will take place at the Copenhaver Band Hall at 326 Sumter Street on the UofSC campus.  Valet parking is available

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Jyotindra Parekh
   Posted Tue April 13, 2021
All of us at Rice Music House are very sorry for your loss. We will keep him and his family in our prayers. We will miss him dearly. A great pianist and an ambassador or music in the city of Columbia, SC .

Jennifer Froneberger
   Posted Thu April 15, 2021
I was so sad to hear of John’s passing. My parents, Russ and Kathy, were John’s neighbors for many, many years, and I always enjoyed waving to him as he swung on the front porch. He always had a smile and a twinkle in his eye, and he and Voncille were always so kind to my daughter Anna, who was then quite young and loved to invade other’s property. :) John was a kind, beautiful soul, a great neighbor and friend to my parents, and he will be missed by people he probably didn’t even realize he had touched. I’m so sorry for your (our) loss. He will be in our hearts and minds forever.

With love,
Jennifer and Anna Froneberger

Sherry Bomar
   Posted Thu April 15, 2021
Love and prayers to the family of a great man with whom I was fortunate to be acquainted, thanks to his wife, Voncille. May God hold you in his loving arms and grant you peace.

David Allison
   Posted Tue April 20, 2021
My condolences to John's family. I always looked forward to performing with John. Not only for the music collaboration, but for his humor and banter as we took breaks together. What a fun, talented, easy going friend to have. I have missed performing with him for the past few years, but I will have many great memories of his playing and our conversations! Rest in Peace my friend.

Wally and Sonya Stewart
   Posted Sun April 25, 2021
Our hearts are broken for you.
love and hugs
sss/wrs

Overton G. Ganong
   Posted Sun April 25, 2021
It is with deep sorrow that I write this note of sympathy to Voncille and the family of John Williams. John’s passing has left a void in the many lives he influenced. I first knew him as a skilled and remarkably versatile musician whose public performances I enjoyed many times, then later as my son’s beloved piano teacher, whose guidance, encouragement, and comradeship had such a positive effect on my son’s life, and finally as a friend whose company I enjoyed immensely. He was a remarkable person, and he lived a long and rich life. We who were blessed to know him are grateful for the time he spent on this earth, and we will miss him.

Anita Baker
   Posted Sat May 01, 2021
Sending our deepest sympathies.

Anita H. Baker (Mrs. Charles E. Baker) and daughter, Anita T. Baker

Cherese Bassett-Sowell
   Posted Mon May 17, 2021
Williams Family,

We are deeply sorry to hear about John’s passing. As you grieve, please know that all of us in the UNT College of Music are remembering and honoring his time as a Music Education major at our university. As we celebrate the impact John had on the UNT College of Music and the graduating classes of 1958 and 1960, we send our most heartfelt condolences to your family.

John will be missed dearly and remembered fondly. We are here for you during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

Sent with love and remembrance from Dean John W. Richmond, the College of Music Development Office, and the entire UNT College of Music.

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