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Williams Returns to Ohio Valley For Wheeling Symphony Debut

John Marcel Williams

WHEELING — Guitarist John Marcel Williams said he is excited to return to the Ohio Valley for his first performance with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

He will be the guest artist for the WSO concert, “Let’s Dance,” conducted by music director John Devlin, at the Capitol Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Williams, who grew up in Wintersville, will play a concerto for guitar and orchestra written by Hollywood film composer Elmer Bernstein.

“Definitely this will be a lot of fun. We don’t get to play a lot with orchestra on guitar,” Williams said.

Bernstein’s concerto isn’t performed frequently, but “it’s a really great piece,” he said. “It will be my first time playing it.”

Discussing the musical opportunity, he said, “This is pretty unusual. As guitarists, we don’t play with orchestras all the time. So it will be very exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”

The 25-year-old musician also is eager to meet Devlin, who recently joined the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra as its new conductor.

While growing up, Williams attended one or two WSO concerts every season.

Williams, who now lives in Philadelphia, gives numerous solo performances and performs and teaches frequently at venues across the United States and internationally.

He began to study guitar at age 10 and graduated from Steubenville High School after his sophomore year to participate in an accelerated program at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Within a short time span, he won more than 20 prizes at competitions.

At 16, he accepted an invitation from legendary guitarist Manuel Barrueco to study at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore.

After earning undergraduate and master’s degrees at Peabody, he enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he is completing a post-bachelor’s diploma.

“I’m quite busy,” he said. “I’m finishing probably my last year of school. I’ll think about a PhD (degree) down the road.”

Most of Williams’ time is devoted to private teaching in his guitar studio at Curtis. Philadelphia has a great classical music scene, he related.

He is a member of a classical guitar quartet from Curtis that will perform at Princeton University in a Nov. 10 tribute to composer Paul Lansky. Williams also is planning concerts, mostly in the Philadelphia area, for next spring and summer.

“In classical guitar, you don’t have (regular) orchestra jobs. It’s a lot of everything, teaching, concerts, stuff like that,” he remarked.

Noting his early start, he said, “Around 13 or so, I was pretty committed so I knew I was going to try to do the music career path.

“I started with classical. My parents were classical musicians. Music was big in my family,” Williams said, adding, “I experimented with other styles.”

His parents, Timothy and Katherine Williams of Wintersville, are pianists. “They always had a lot of respect for classical music. It helps to have parents who understand the scene,” he commented.

Prior to Friday’s WSO concert, Devlin and other guests will offer a free “Concert Talk” at 6:30 p.m. Immediately after the performance, attendees may stay for a post-show reception with Devlin and many of the other members of the orchestra.

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