Meet Rick Williams, the newest member of the Music Forward team! Rick has already begun to make an impact here at Music Forward as our new Artist Development Manager, connecting with our young people and beyond. Learn a little more about Rick and his Music Forward journey below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey leading to your role at Music Forward.
I’m a classically-trained percussionist with a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Business Certificate from Columbia University. I began my music business career in New York at the performing rights organization ASCAP, and moved up the ranks until I landed a position doing research and analysis at Sony Music’s headquarters. In 2017, I made the move out to Los Angeles, inspired by the music and the culture of the city —along with the sun, sand and surf! I did some work in music royalties, and eventually made the transition to higher education as the Career & Student Services Manager at Los Angeles College of Music, helping to prepare students for various careers in the music industry. My experiences working directly with musicians in that particular role led me to Music Forward!
What do you do at Music Forward? And what are you most excited about?
I recently began working at Music Forward as the Artist Development Manager. In this role, I help to execute Music Forward’s emerging artist programming, and help aspiring artists navigate the many programs and performance opportunities that Music Forward offers. I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to engage directly with the musicians and music industry movers and shakers of today and tomorrow, and to see them grow and thrive!
What, in your career path so far, do you think best prepares you for your new position?
I’ve seen the business from the perspective of both a performer and an industry professional. Having both a classical training in music and practical music business experience, I’m able to help musicians fine-tune their skills and develop their musical personality, as well as coordinate workshops and opportunities for them to navigate the ins and outs of this complicated industry.
Growing up, who or what were some of your inspirations?
I spent my early years listening to the music that my parents listened to–Motown, Michael Jackson, James Brown–and these remain some of my biggest musical influences. I discovered classic rock in high school and eventually studied the catalogs of artists like The Stones and Led Zeppelin as well.
With the lyrics that I’ve written and the music that I composed for the different ensembles that I’ve performed in, my inspiration has often come from the songwriters and composers who were able to tell great stories, write great rhythms, and evoke specific emotions with their music—the romance of Tchaikovsky, the nuance of Smokey Robinson, the percussive approach of Michael Jackson, even the glam and nostalgia of The Killers. There are too many to name!
What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you want to be?
While proper, formal training is not always required in every instance, it certainly doesn’t hurt! Whether it’s finding a private instructor who understands you and your musical needs, a teacher who can teach you the basics of the industry, or going through the various programs and opportunities at Music Forward, absorb all of the information that you can, and get that resume and bio in shape!
My college experience at Eastman was great in that it taught me not just how to be a better percussionist, but how to be a better overall musician and industry professional. Part of this was due to the great instructors, and part of this was just due to the experience of being around and performing with other musicians where we were able to share ideas and learn from each other. Finding a network and community of like-minded individuals can definitely help, whether it’s to help you build your skills and confidence, or to provide continued support for you in your musical journey.
What piece of advice would you give to young people looking for their first role in the music industry?
Find your passion, and run with it! You’re likely to be most successful and most satisfied when you’re doing the things that you enjoy doing, so seek out those things. And remember—there are multiple paths to get to where you want to go, so if one door closes, find the next set of doors. While the music industry can be a tough industry to break into, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Knowing the different parts, pieces, and pathways of the industry and how they work together and fit together can help you along the way.
What has been your most memorable or favorite live music experience?
When I was in 4th grade, my parents took me to see Earth, Wind & Fire in concert. In the middle of the set, the lights suddenly went out, and the drummer performed an extensive solo with glow-in-the-dark drumsticks. I was immediately hooked! My parents bought me my first snare drum that Christmas and signed me up for lessons. I haven’t stopped drumming on things since!
How does music move you?
Music inspires me to live life to the fullest!