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Monica Williams: Bio

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Monica was classically trained at the Eastman School of Music. She has studied with several esteemed flutists such as Bonita Boyd, Susan Levitin, and Brad Garner.

After graduating Monica found a deep love for the sounds of various world and hybrid flutes that called her to New Age music. It is a genre with classical, jazz and world music overtones that is intended to inspire, relax, and create optimism. In addition to C flute, her flute collection includes bamboo, Native American, pan, alto, and bass. Her newest addition is a hybrid flute extension called the ‘Zi Fi’, which is a fusion flute that crosses a traditional flute with a Chinese Dizi and a reed instrument.

She co-founded the ensemble Phoenix Rising and is a freelance flutist for various groups and recording projects in the area. She currently has four CD’s including ‘Whispers’ by Phoenix Rising, ‘Ascension’ by Phoenix Rising, ‘Mystic Places’ by Phoenix Rising, and ‘Silences Between’ by Monica Williams. Phoenix Rising can be heard on radio stations including ‘Soundscapes’ by Music Choice and ‘Spa Channel’ by SiriusXM.

Monica shares her love of music with the next generation at Civic Arts Education where she teaches 35 students and is the director of Flock of Flutes. She teaches at Civic Arts Education in Walnut Creek and her home studio in San Francisco. Her students have been selected to perform at the Honor’s Performance Series at Carnegie Hall, High School and Junior High School All State Bands, Contra Costa County Honor Bands, All Northern Honor Band, District Bands, Berkeley Youth Orchestra, Oakland Youth Orchestra, Sunset Youth Orchestra, Young Person’s Symphony Orchestra, and Cal Poly CA All State Band. In addition her students have won numerous awards including Command Performances at CMEA Solo and Ensemble, Finalist for the San Francisco International Flute Festival, Youth Focus Competitions, Royal Conservatory Music Development Program State and National Awards. Monica is no stranger to the award circuits herself.

The music ensemble Phoenix Rising has been nominated in the best Classical, New Age and Jazz categories by the Hollywood Music and Media Awards, the Los Angeles Music Awards, and the Independent Music Awards. Additionally, she has won and been recognized by several national solo competitions with organizations such as Civic Union League of Chicago, Chicago Flute Club, Rochester Flute Club, and the National Flute Association. Monica is a member of the California Music Educators Association (CMEA), Contra Costa Performing Arts Society, ASCAP, National Flute Association (NFA), as well as a founding teacher for the Royal Conservatory’s Music Development Program, where she a center representative.

Review by Vivik Kumar

Very recently, I was watching a movie on my computer while the subtitles attracted my focus–there was no dialogue and I felt intrigued what they want to tell. The phrase read: ‘Suspense Music.’ I knew that music has the power to create a situation or arouse various kinds of moods in the listener’s mind, but that pinpointing by the subtitles made me think how easily discernible it is–the effect of music. Without appropriate music, a movie would appear totally bland, no?

While listening to new music, I am always looking for such effects and being a lover of flutes, I picked Monica Williams debut album with great expectations. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that it has a great variety and texture of the music. She definitely chose a very difficult theme and something that only a few would like to pick for their debut album, and it definitely shows the confidence she has in herself, the grounding that she has in her education, and also the daring quality of a seasoned artist who is not afraid of exploring roads less traveled.udging from the name of the album and the artwork, one would guess that the album is going to be a deep on, touching the esoteric subjects of philosophic understanding of life and the reason of one’s existence. Well, you will find that philosophic or rather poetic side shown the names of the songs itself. Every name or theme of the song reads like a title of a poem. (!)

Album Name: Journey of Tears

Artist Name: Monica Williams

‘Raining Tears’ is a great opening for an album given that it combines natural elements like thunder and sound of rain with the vibrating sound of the flute.

‘Conversations Within’ is the track that shows the true colors of a flute–a deep and far-reaching voice.

‘New Horizons’ has that Native American Touch in its sounds and is an excellent mixture of different octaves played on different flutes.

‘Unconditional Love’ happens to be the smallest song on the album, but I found it fulfilling its purpose–short and sweet!

One of the great points of this album is the prominence of rhythm in various songs, which is often missing in the debut solo albums of various artists but Monica has done well as a composer. ‘On the Edge’ gives you a glimpse of a journey that has an element of excitement with placid layers of flute music. A great piece, indeed!

‘Finding Peace’ is soothing just like ‘Unconditional Love’ because it represents the basic values of our existence.

My favorite track of the album is ‘Constant Change.’ It does so much justice to the poetically paradoxical name that is given to it. The flute, the drums, the guitar–everything sounds so amazing in this track.

Being an Indian and knowing that Monica has a bamboo flute in her collection, I was waiting for its sound and my mind was almost ‘Wandering’ when I heard the song. Ah, it has that native sound and she played it so beautifully. It felt like someone sitting on the Ghats of Varanasi is playing it and calling to the Mother Ganges. A great rendition!

The last track ‘The Great Beyond’–the longest on the album–has an angelic touch to it and constitutes parallel vocals to the sound of the flute. True to its name, it tries to depict something that is beyond this world.

It is needless to say that a listener will find a spiritual calling while listening to this album, which means the album will benefit you greatly if you are already doing some spiritual practice like meditation or chanting etc.

More often than not, when you pick up a solo album of a flutist, you expect a collection of different melodies and tunes played on a particular flute, which the artist feels most comfortable with. However, what is great in this album is that Monica has shown a glimpse of almost every possibility that flutes can have when it comes to creating different textures of music, and the listener is left wanting more, which is obviously a great win for a debut album. Well done, Monica!

Review by Jonathan Widran

Check into Pandora’s Indian Flute Radio any time of day, flip from track to track, and you’ll be met with some lovely sparsely arranged meditational music – with not much more going on besides the primary instrument and some nature sounds. It’s relaxing and mediational, sure, but those passionate about these instruments – and as Monica Williams’ lengthy career and impressive collection testifies, there are quite a few variations – deserve something deeper, more emotional and musical than just the same simple soft blowing wind all the time.

On her long-awaited solo debut Journey of Tears, Williams – an Eastman School of Music alum and longtime half of the popular flute/piano duo Phoenix Rising with Wendy Loomis – transcends the usual genre fare with a keen sense of harmonics, subtle and dramatic atmospheres and brilliant ensemble work with various musical guests, including fingerstyle guitarist Darin Mahoney, New Age flutist Sherry Finzer and vocalist Alexa Nodromia.

 Despite its title, which implies sadness, melancholy and may provoke thoughts about America’s dark “Trail of Tears” period from 1831-1850, this powerful 10-track collection includes many uplifting, aspirational moments, the sense that the artist – and the collective “we” along with her – are on a road fraught with ups and downs, but on a quest for something more, something transcendent.

 In a bit of irony, the liner notes to Ascension, the second of five acclaimed Phoenix Rising albums, begin, “We are living in a time of stress and struggle. There’s still hunger, hatred and sickness in the world that is also filled with such beauty, generosity and harmony.” Sounds like it’s speaking to our moment a decade later, doesn’t it?

It’s clear that as she embarks on what promises to be an exciting solo career, William is still on the journey, keeping it real by lamenting and feeling helpless over loss but also full of unbridled optimism that as long as she has breath to animate her flutes, all is not lost. She has a great arsenal to draw from, including the C flute, bamboo, Native American, pan, alto and bass. Her newest addition, prominently featured on Journey of Tears, is a hybrid flute extension called the “Zi Fi,” which is a fusion between a traditional flute and a Chinese Dizi and a reed like instrument.

Perhaps only listeners who have mastered the possibilities of flute like Williams will be able to pick out what she’s playing where, but the key here is not to dwell on the technical brilliance of the production, but the emotional storytelling going on. She starts the journey in the midst of a storm (literally, with thunder and rain in the hypnotic ambience) as she laments on “Raining Tears” but it’s clear she knows where the answer lies. It’s there if you just engage in some “Conversations Within” – a lighthearted meditational tune that conveys a joyful spirit through a higher range flute melody interacting with Mahoney’s lush string harmony. Mahoney also appears, with a more subtle, hypnotic harmony line on “New Horizons,” a song whose haunting moods remind us that seeking out a new place in life can sometimes be a struggle. 

Williams uses different flutes and lead melodic tones to convey different frames of mind along the journey, from the wistful sorrow on the symphonic “Unconditional Love” and the cautious, tribal percussion enhanced venture “On the Edge” to her mystical declaration (with dark piano undercurrents) that we should always expect “Constant Change.” After a bit more “Wandering,” Williams learns to appreciate “Love From a Distance” (essentially a solo meditation) and ascends into “The Great Beyond,” called by the angelic voice of Nodromia as she emotes powerfully over an intense mystical synth wash. 

Many new age artists just use pretty titles as afterthoughts but Williams blissfully blends her gorgeous flute melodies and deeply textured production with compelling storytelling throughout. It’s called Journey of Tears, but you will feel cleansed, no more crying to be done after you