MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Cameren Anai Williams, 17
Violist Cameren Anai Williams made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall at 13, just two years after she transitioned from the violin to the viola. Her debut followed her 2013 win in the amateur category of the American Protégé International Concerto Competition..
The 17-year-old Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts junior has an impressive list of accolades: a principal violist with A.W. Dreyfoos’ orchestra since freshman year, winning the 2017 Delta Cultural Educational Service Foundation, Inc. Our Kids Rock competition, performing as An Evening with Black Artists Alpha Educational Foundation featured youth artist, finalist in the 2016 American Viola Society’s Solo Competition senior division and winning the 2016 South Florida Youth Artist Solo Competition high school division.
Williams, a West Palm Beach resident, said that in her household – with her music professor mother Erika Locke-Williams overseeing the family – playing an instrument was a natural progression. “I started violin when I was five and then my mom got me a viola for my 11th birthday,” she said. “The minute I got it, I loved it. I wasn’t even thinking about viola for my primary instrument.”
Having a mother who is not only musical but has a vast knowledge of music history is a big inspiration to Williams. Her mom plays a variety of instruments, including wind, brass and piano – and sings . “My mom is really knowledgeable about music history and that’s one thing I love talking about,” she said. “So to be able to talk with my mom about something I am so deeply affected by, I think that is a really special thing.”
Williams is attending the Center Stage Strings program at the University of Michigan this summer where she will be performing with other high-level musicians.
“I’m going to be working on chamber music which is music with a small number of people,” she said. “I want to focus on my solo and chamber music. I have college auditions in the fall so I wanted to go somewhere where I could get my solo repertoire up to par.”
Williams said her biggest challenge is balancing high school life with music and academics and figuring out how to make time for practice and still squeeze in a social life.
“I’m at the top of my class, number six with straight A’s but it’s been hard to manage doing all of my work and getting my two to five hours of viola practice every day,” she said.
Williams said although it is difficult she tries to spend time with friends when her schedule permits. And, although she’s very shy she credits music for helping her get out of her shell a bit more. Everything she does, she says, comes back to music. “Music is not just a part of my life,” Williams said. “It is my life.”
What are your hobbies?
“I enjoy drawing, writing short stories and poems. I really like math and crossword puzzles.”
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
“I would go to a private, secluded area with just a few people and see what they’re talking about.”
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
“George Washington. I want to see what his political stance was then and compare it to how things are now. (Compare) the things he said we are to do and the things we actually do.”
What is the best advice you ever received?
“It’s cliché but I think of it every day. Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
“I would have loved to watch opera singer Jessye Norman’s concert at Carnegie Hall.”
What is your favorite childhood memory?
“We used to go to Universal in Orlando a lot when I was younger. I loved riding all the roller coasters with my dad (Eusebius Williams).”
Who is your hero or someone who inspires you?
“I think my mom would be my hero. She’s so amazing. She seems like she has everything figured out. I don’t know if she actually does but she plays it off that way. She is so organized, she always knows exactly what to say and is so knowledgeable. She supports me and everything that I do. (Musically, violist Kim Kashkashian is someone I admire.”
What is something most people don’t know about you?
“I was born on leap day (Feb. 29). When I turn 20, I’ll be 5 in leap years.”
What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
“I would bring my viola, my phone and one of my best friends, Anabel.”
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