Running Start Spotlights

Tamara Williams

April Interview

Tamara Williams, Alum, MM 2011

Tamara Williams is a jazz vocalist, composer, writer, activist, and arts administrator with several years of experience developing music programs with non-profit organizations, colleges, and universities. She is the Founder and Director of Music Beyond Measure, a nonprofit whose mission is to create unique music programs to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develop healthy coping mechanisms to aid in the recovery process.

Video provided by: Music Beyond Measure

Check out her interview with Running Start, below, and visit Music Beyond Measure's website to learn more.

Interview with Tamara Williams

How would you describe your professional identity in a sentence?

I teach people how to use music to rediscover their sense of self after experiencing a traumatic event, such as domestic violence or sexual assault.
Can you summarize your current entrepreneurial projects in a sentence or two?
In 2013, I started an organization called Music Beyond Measure (MBM) to create arts recovery programs for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). MBM connects professional musicians with survivors to create original music that, not only tells their stories, but reshapes the way that community conversations about these issues take place.

How has your career, project, or intiative been growing and developing since you graduated? Since last year? What are your next steps as you go forward?
Upon graduation from MSU, the seeds of the organization had been planted through my work as a mentor with the MSU Community Music School-Detroit. When MBM was started, we developed music curriculum designed specifically for trauma survivors. In 2014, that curriculum was put to work when MBM was one of 11 organizations selected to run the "Sing Your Story" Project with probation clients in the South Bronx as part of NeON Arts; a partnership between the NYC Department of Probation and Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute. In the same year, I was selected as a Creative Community Fellow with National Arts Strategies, which connected 50 social entrepreneurs from around the world. The next step for MBM is to expand programming to shelters, rape crisis centers, colleges & universities in the New York metro area and, eventually, to scale nationally. MBM's goal is to promote a dramatic shift in the way that trauma survivors experience their recovery while introducing music as a way for our communities to have meaningful and purposeful discussion about domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and PTSD. When these conversations start from a place of healing instead of the outrage of the media and the public, systemic change can begin.
How did the College of Music prepare you to embark on your career?
Being in the MSU Jazz Studies department was one of the most challenging things I had ever done. However, the demand for excellence that the professors place on the musicians helped me to speak the language of music and interpret it in a way that defines the work that I do today. Working with CMS-Detroit allowed me to never forget to connect with the community and that music truly is for everyone.

What do you think are the most important skills to have as a 21st century musician? As an entrepreneur?

Musicians and entrepreneurs must be willing to take risk and not be afraid of change. Don't get so caught up in convention that you forget how to be innovative.

What words of wisdom do you have for prospective MSU students?

The professors in the jazz department often said to "always be prepared for a gig even when you don't have one". It was definitely a lesson on being a music professional, but it's truly a life lesson. Even when you don't know what's coming next, prepare for the unknown so that when the call comes, you can take the stage.