Dawn Gehlhar Williams ’06, Music & Story-Telling

Posted on June 6th, 2011 by

Dawn Michelle (Gehlhar) Williams ’06 reveals her true heart and soul at the piano. She states that in many ways, her music is like her dad’s story telling.  Using notes instead of words, Dawn draws on her own experiences as she strives to write music that includes bits of her — her feelings, heart, dreams—and she writes it in a way that you can share those experiences with her. Today she is living the dream of writing and recording her “stories.”

Dawn Michelle (Gehlhar) Williams '06

Dawn Michelle (Gehlhar) Williams '06

A native of Minnesota, Dawn grew up at the piano with teachers who taught her first to read music and then challenged her to play what wasn’t written. She discovered the art of improvisation very early. She discovered Ragtime and Spanish dances, melodies with spark and hints of spontaneity. She learned to claim these new sounds as her own and put them into her music.

Improvisation didn’t diminish her love of the classical piano repertoire. It remained the foundation of the music she wrote. The teacher who introduced her to the art also bought Dawn her first classical piano book. That foundation provided her with a solid understanding of music and technique and is what makes her such a versatile pianist today. She is a frequent musician for weddings and special events, a collaborative pianist, a seasoned member of worship bands and a lead church pianist.

At Gustavus, Dawn earned the prestigious Jussi Björling Music Scholarship from the Department of Music. She studied with faculty who taught her the importance of hard work and accepting criticism. And, she learned from her mistakes as she heard the potential for even more music in each “wrong” note.

While at Gustavus, Dawn created her first album, Christmas Dreams, as a gift for her parents. When they started making copies for family and friends, Dawn was inspired to continue on the journey of a professional musician and she recorded another album of her own hymn arrangements, Inspirations.

Now, working with Billy Smiley (White Heart, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Newsboys) and sound engineer Billy Whittington (Mixing engineer for Amy Grant, Denice Williams, and Vince Gill), Dawn is setting out to produce her first full-length recording. With the help of professional musicians and engineers, she is beginning to realize the heights her music can reach.

For Dawn, making music is just as much about tapping into imagination as it is about tapping into reality. She is working to create new songs with greater depth and quality and plans to continue telling the story through her music. In her own words, “Let the music come.”

More information about the release of her new cd and the other music of Dawn Michelle Williams can be found on her web site at http://www.dawnmichellewilliams.com/about.html


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