About Derek Williams

Biography - Career Narrative
Introduction | Career Highlights | Education | Curriculum Vitae

" I am passionate about the creation and performance of music, both self-composed and composed by others, with a substantial publication list of arrangements and compositions in a variety of fields including music for theatre, film and television.  I am committed to achieving excellence in both live and recorded music."

I was born in 1952 in New Zealand, where I was educated at Rosmini College (Auckland), and completed my ATCL, LTCL and LMusTCL diplomas in piano and composition. I am now a Fellow of Trinity College, London (FTCL). In 1975 I graduated to the degree of Bachelor of Music (BMus) at the Auckland University Conservatorium of Music, winning the Professor Hollinrake Memorial Scholarship and the Senior Scholarship for best student while continuing to lecture and examine there. While a student at the Conservatorium, I toured the world as a chorister with the Auckland University Festival Choir conducted by Professor Peter Godfrey, CBE, which performed in the International Choral Festival at the Kennedy Centre and in the White House, Washington DC, and at the Lincoln Centre, New York as guests of the United States Government, and then at Kings College, Cambridge and Westminster Abbey, London before touring through Europe.

In 1974, I founded and directed the New Zealand School of Music under the patronage of Lord Mayor of Auckland, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson and with the conductor of the Symphonia of Auckland, Juan Matteucci, OBE I established the first non-university tertiary level qualification for conductors of music in the Southern Hemisphere. I also completed my NZ Education Department Diploma in Teaching.

While school teaching from 1979, I was a musical director and keyboard player for various theatrical productions including Oklahoma, Twelfth Night, Earthfire, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell and worked professionally for Progeni Systems Ltd as a computer programmer of educational software for New Zealand schools. For a while I was employed as a keyboards player and arranger by Sir Howard Morrison.

In 1981 I was approved as musical director, orchestrator and conductor for the world première production and cast album of the musical Aloha by the authors Sir Robert Helpmann and Eaton Magoon Jr from Hawaii. Since then I have worked in Honolulu as arranger, computer programmer and production adviser for Magoon's Broadway musical Thirteen Daughters and more recently, Leopard's Leap in California USA.

After musically directing and orchestrating a second, professional New Zealand production of Aloha for Broadway Director Joe Layton, I immigrated to Australia in 1985 and began work as musical director for Australia's Wonderland, keyboards player for the musical Cats and orchestrator for the Australian Singing Competition. I was later employed as chorus master and keyboards player for the musical Rasputin and musical director for Sydney Theatre Restaurants Ltd and was musical director for Peter Williams production of Cinderella.

I have been a freelance keyboards player for theatre productions such as Nunsense. I have played keyboards in television performances with Kate Ceberano, Wendy Matthews, as well as Debbie Newsome and Grace Knight, for both of whom I also acted as musical director and arranger. I was choral arranger and pianist for Torvill & Dean's album Here We Stand.

After orchestrating the Australian Bicentennial musical History Of Australia in 1988, I began working with record producer and film composer Martin Armiger as variously arranger, orchestrator, composer, keyboardist and conductor on many films, records and television series, which have included: The Last Resort, Rainbow Warrior, Bodysurfer, The Wonderful World Of Dogs, The Crossing starring Russell Crowe, Come In Spinner (Platinum album sales), Flashbacks, Ring Of Scorpio, Police Rescue, Children Of The Dragon, The Other Side Of Paradise, Thank God He Met Lizzie, Hard Knox starring Lee Majors, Hildegarde, the ABC's Seven Deadly Sins album featuring Renée Geyer and the Graham Murphy ballet Fornicon.

I composed music for In Grave Danger Of Falling Food, several commercial advertisements, a number of ATN Channel 7 ID's including Let's Celebrate '88 and Broadcom's commercial video production, Arthur Young, Australia. Other orchestration credits include the New Zealand film Crush, the ABC film Empire and documentaries Black Swan for composer Antony Partos and Widows for Roi and Megan Huberman; Blinky Bill and the feature films Frauds starring Phil Collins and featuring Marcia Hines as well as Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert and the ABC Cable Television News Service themes for film composer Guy Gross. I was a casual keyboards player for Cats Sydney return season, as well as Phantom Of The Opera.

Again using computer scoring software, I programmed piano transcriptions for the Sydney Dance Company's Berlin (Max Lambert & Iva Davies) performed at the Sydney Opera House. I programmed Peter Casey's orchestrations for the Korean musical The Last Empress, and in 1996 was orchestrator and musical director for Crook & Carroll's new musical Lulu. In 1998 I arranged, scored, performed, recorded and mastered to CD the entire 5 volume book for the Dance Assessment Programme for Australian Dance Vision using digital scoring and hard disk recording and mastering software. I was also appointed producer, arranger orchestrator and conductor for the Frank Bennett album Cash Landing by EMI Music Australia, which received a nomination for an Aria Award. In 1999 I programmed scores for the Split Enz song book for Mushroom Music.

I have been commissioned at various times by the NSW Department of School Education to write original music and arrangements for the Performing Arts Unit for outstanding performers from the NSW secondary education system. On one occasion I wrote a large scale work combining the forces of big band, full orchestra and choir for a combined high schools concert to be held in the Sydney Opera House. In 1998 I wrote arrangements for the DSE All Stars Big Band's acclaimed tour of Europe. In 2004, I composed, performed and recorded all music for Levels 1-8 of Glenn Wood Tap - The Syllabus. From 1995 to 2006, I was resident pianist at Araluen Wedding Receptions in Epping. In 2005, I worked for Caroline O'Connor as arranger and performer for her Sydney Opera House production End Of The Rainbow, as well as her album Tribute to Garland and its launch at a public concert at Taronga Park, and in 2007 I scored an arrangement for 650 voice choir and orchestra for her performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK. In 2008 I also scored arrangements for her performances in London and at the Australia Day celebrations at the Australian Consulate in New York, and in 2010 I was an arranger for The Showgirl Within at London's Garrick Theatre. In 2012, I was commissioned to arrange and orchesatrate How Lucky Can You Get? for her official opening of the Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Australia.

I have been regularly employed as a conductor of orchestral recording sessions, and as a freelance conductor have at various times conducted: Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group, Edinburgh Grand Opera, Frank Holden Big Band, Apostrophe Ensemble, Edinburgh University Composers' Orchestra, The Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra), The Hunter Orchestra, The Peter Seymour Orchestra, The NSW Education Department Combined High Schools Orchestra, The Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Big Band and the Waverley-Randwick Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

Since 1986, I have operated my own recording studio in which I have scored all the above credits, and recorded and mastered demos and CDs for performing artists. During that time, I have run Music Technology courses, and since 1997 I have run authorised Steinberg Training Centres at my studio, Sydney Community College and Randwick Boys High School where I taught full time from 1986 to 2006.

Since 2006, I have been resident in Edinburgh, Scotland and completed my PhD at The University of Edinburgh, where I have also been tutor and postgraduate representative. While at Edinburgh, I have also performed variously as keyboardist and musical director for Scottish singer and big band leader Frank Holden and in 2008 have been répétiteur and offstage chorus conductor for Edinburgh Grand Opera's production of Faust. For the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008, I was répétiteur for Opera Shorts, the world première of four short operas by recent graduates of The University of Edinburgh.

In 2009, I was appointed producer and participant composer for the Edinburgh University funded Encounters CD project. In 2010, I received a commission to compose a Quintet for Piano and Strings by the Seiras Piano Quintet for performance at the Sala Accademica di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and another from the Artisan Trio (Edinburgh) to compose a Quintet for Piano, Violin, Cello, Clarinet and Horn funded by the Edinburgh University Roberts Fund.

I have also continuously received various commissions both nationally and internationally in orchestration and composition, including the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for which I received a commission to compose Waltz jointly by The University of Edinburgh and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for their collaborative ballet Colours. Also in the Festival, my one act opera Medea received its world premiere at the Edinburgh Jazz Bar.  In 2014 my opera Medea  was repeated at the University of Edinburgh Reid Concert Hall, and I received various commissions in orchestration and composition, including the music score for a documentary film for the Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation and a commission from The Orchestra of the Canongait to compose a new symphony in 4 movements to be premiered in 2016.  In 2015, I was commissioned to arrange and conduct the Glenfiddich 21yo Whiskyad campaign, and performed as keyboardist for the Richard Strauss Alpine Symphony and chorister for the Orchestra of the Canongait and Waverley Consort performances of the Bach B Minor Mass and Handel Messiah

In Scotland, I have been appointed conductor for a variety of ensembles, including the Lothian Festival Orchestra (2017) and the Lintlithgow String Orchestra (2021), and for the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I was appointed conductor of the Abbottsford String Ensemble (Edinburgh). From 2007 to the present, I have also been part time Lecturer and Tutor in Orchestration, Composition and Screen Composition on the Associated Staff of The University of Edinburgh, to undergraduate Honours degree and postgraduate Masters degree students.

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Derek Williams' CV

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