Local musician wins international score competition

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By Zoe Deal

Musician and Blaine resident Gina Williams was recently honored by Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) as the winner of its international Call for Scores competition.

In addition to receiving $1,500 in prize money, the organization is flying her to Minneapolis and giving her a front row seat as her piece “Reverance” is performed by two youth sinfonias on May 5.

Williams radiates a powerful energy and self-assuredness, channeled even more so by a fur-lined black coat and layers of maroon ombré hair. Her musical history is broad; as a multi-genre artist, Williams has dabbled in opera, gospel, jazz, classical, rock and pop. She sings, she has a master’s degree in concert piano from the University of Alberta, and through it all she’s written and composed her own songs and scores.

Since the Alberta native moved to Blaine in August 2017, she says the country has blessed her tenfold. Various music grants have taken her from the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle to a Winter Classics Concert in Austin; this support is why she feels at home in a country for which she said she may be better suited.

“Even as an Albertan, I had an American head. I’ve always been this way,” Williams said. “My parents really think I’m an alien.”

As a child, Williams was often called a prodigy. Decades into her career, it’s clear that she has something special.

Williams calls it a gift from God.

“I hear finished music in my head. I write what I hear,” Williams said. “You don’t know when you’re going to get it, or what genre it’s going to be, you just don’t know.”

Williams likens the experience to someone turning on a radio in her head. She remembers each song and catalogues them in the back of her mind.

From the age of six, she has heard complete songs; from the age of 15, complete scores have appeared. Though it took her a while to be able to write them in all their complexity, Williams now has three albums (in three different genres) released and is working on her fourth.

“She’s full-out. Her talent is undeniable,” said Sam Ryan of SOS Music Group. Ryan produced and recorded Williams’ 2008 album In Spite of the Storm, and said he’s never worked with a musician as musically diverse as Williams.

“I did a concert with her four years ago and she did everything from classical, to a rock band, to dance pop,” he said.

Williams’ most recent album Olympiad (2017) is classically inspired. Some of the pieces had been in the back of her head for months, even years. Others bubbled up when she began the process.

“Reverance” is the last piece on Olympiad. Because the piece is just short of two minutes, Williams said she was shocked it was even considered by GTCYS, let alone the one chosen from nearly 60 scores.

“For me, it’s all a big deal,” Williams said. “As a musician, I always have a slight inferiority complex, but you push yourself to be the best for your audience.”

In addition to the GTCYS event, Williams will perform a gospel/jazz fusion set at the Festival of Jazz in The Dalles, Oregon on May 26. On September 1, Williams is scheduled to show her multi-genre musical skill at the Denmark Arts Center in Denmark, Maine.

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