Percussionist, Composer, Orchestrator and Conductor
Donald J. Williams’ vast and varied career as a percussionist, composer, orchestrator and conductor spans popular and classical music while advancing musical education in both America and Europe. His creative work has appeared on thousands of film and television soundtracks and popular music and original cast albums over the past four decades. In fact, he’s been a part of the majority of the world’s biggest movies over the past He has also performed with more than 45 different Broadway productions while also serving as a special instructor for prestigious universities.
A native of Los Angeles, Williams grew up in the suburban San Fernando Valley in a musical family that included his brothers John and Jerry and sister Joan. After graduating from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Williams attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia under a scholarship. Studying with percussion teachers such as Fred Hinger and Gerry Carlyss, he also worked with Alan Abel and Billy Dorn to hone his skills. Returning home to L.A. he continued his studies with noted TV composer Albert Harris, which led to work on stage, episodic television and major motion pictures, plus commercial jingles and other special media projects. Williams has toured or recorded with Bob Hope, Tom Jones, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis Jr., Burt Bacharach and many other stars.
His impressive output in films includes “E.T,” the “Indian Jones” film series, “Jurassic Park, “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” (in fact, in all Stephen Spielberg movies) as well as other box office giants. He’s added his distinct musical accents to a vast array of animated releases in both film and television, including the acclaimed Batman animated series of the ‘90s and contributions to Disney projects. His television credits are also staggering, with shows such as the Emmy-winning “Roots,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Lois & Clark” among the programs to which he’s brought his special touch. On Broadway, Williams’ extensive credits include smash stage shows such as “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita,” “A Chorus Line,” and many more.
He’s also no stranger to the richly evocative world of classical music, including time spent with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera and Pennsylvania Ballet Company and for the past 30 years, he’s appeared with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony and Pacific Symphony. He has also performed for the Kirov Ballet, Moscow Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. Williams’ achievements also include conducting symphony orchestras in Europe, orchestration for Disney theme parks in California and Florida.
A ground-breaking educator as well, Williams has also taught at universities from Europe to his hometown of Los Angeles, while also providing private instruction to individuals and ensembles. At the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles, he’s guided a landmark Studio Film Scoring/Recording Clinic that actually includes hands-on studio sessions, offering students new insights into that experience.
Williams’ remarkable ability to adapt to all musical genres and media formats through both recorded and live performances have not merely made him an extraordinary in-demand talent, but also an encouraging mentor to younger musicians – a man who celebrates diversity and relishes sharing that gift with future generations.