On Oct. 19, Colgate’s Live Music Collective (LMC) hosted an evening with guitarist Yasmin Williams at the Earlville Opera House. Her performance is one in a series of the collective’s ongoing programs, which have featured artists such as Leslie Mendelson, Amethyst Kiah, and Tomberlin.
“Members of the LMC have had our eyes on [Williams] for several years hoping that the opportunity might present itself for her to perform as part of the LMC's music series,” says Jeff Bary, who serves as faculty co-lead alongside Director of Research and Scholarly Initiatives Joshua Finnell. “The stars aligned this fall and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Williams achieves the effect of a one-woman-band in her performance style by combining multiple instruments such as the kalimba (a handheld finger-harp) and acoustic guitar, alternating between the metal prongs and silver strings. To add a percussive element, she strikes her fist on the body of the guitar, which she rests on her lap, rather than slinging it on her shoulder.
“I convinced my parents to buy me a real guitar after I beat [Guitar Hero],” she shared, while strumming an intricate melody. Williams then taught herself how to play the instrument, and later pursued her passion for music theory and composition at NYU.
Though she is now just 24 years old, Williams has already grown a sizable fanbase. In 2021, she performed for NPR’s Tiny Desk series, and in the same year, she was hailed by the New York Times as one of the “new faces of solo guitar.” For her Colgate audience, she played the hits that garnered her this title — such as “Juvenescence” and “On a Friday Night.”
Williams’ host, the Live Music Collective, grew out of the Brown Commons Coffeehouse Live Music Series. It draws inspiration from Colgate’s Third-Century intention to integrate the arts into the University’s intellectual fabric. The collective also supports students who are eager to learn about possible career paths in music: in booking, marketing, and promoting acts; interviewing artists; creating digital archives; and even performing their own work.
“Williams is a world-class musician,” says Bary. “The Live Music Collective aims to bring such performers to the broader Colgate and Hamilton communities, to make live performances a part of social life and campus culture.”