Music Alumnus Lands Prestigious MSU Award

Jazz bassist Ben Williams receives MSU Young Alumni Award

GRAMMY Award winner Ben Williams added another high honor to his growing list of accolades after receiving the 2013 Young Alumni Award from Michigan State University. Williams earned a bachelor's degree in music education in 2007 and studied with Rodney Whitaker, professor of double bass and director of jazz studies, and Jack Budrow, professor of double bass and co-chair of the string area.

“When he first auditioned at MSU, after I heard a few notes, I knew he was going to be a star,” says Whitaker.

As a student and young professional, Williams won two of the most prestigious awards available to a jazz bassist. He won first place in the International Society of Bassists Collegiate Competition in 2005. Four years later, he won the annual Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C.

Since graduating MSU, Williams has soared to the top of the charts. His highly regarded 2011 album “State of Art” received a 4.5 star review in Downbeat Magazine and reached number one in Jazz Radio. He was named Breakthrough Artist of the Year by iTunes after his album held the number one spot on iTunes for three consecutive weeks.

In 2012, Williams was named Up and Coming Artist of the Year at the 16th Annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. In 2013, his work with the Pat Metheny United Band received a GRAMMY for Best Instrumental Jazz Album.

Williams received his master of music in jazz studies from The Juilliard School in New York City, where he now resides. He regularly collaborates with leading jazz musicians, including Stephon Harris, Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, and has mentored MSU jazz students who have moved to the city.

“Ben is a committed and effective educator who passes on the tradition of jazz and blues that was handed down to him,” says James Forger, dean of the MSU College of Music. “He is truly an exceptional young Spartan.”

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