Marshall Williamson, a co-founder of Juilliard’s collaborative piano department, died on December 28 at 79. Williamson was on the College Division faculty from 1978 to 2006 and taught in the Evening Division from 1995 until his death. Three of his colleagues and a former student contributed their memories of a man who collaborative piano department chair Jonathan Feldman described as “a true collaborative force.”
Marshall was a very dear man. When I first came to The Juilliard School as a member of the collaborative piano department, his quiet demeanor and delight with music struck me. There was a calmness and sincerity to his being. I found him to be totally supportive of the students and his fellow faculty. I sat with him during all of our Liederabend recitals, and after every performance, he would turn to me and state in his reserved manner, “Another triumph!”
—Jonathan Feldman, Chair, Collaborative Piano
I was very saddened to learn of the death of Marshall Williamson. Marshall really loved singers and he loved singing. He took a genuine delight in a well-turned phrase and beamed his delight back to the performer with an openhearted smile. He was a presence at Juilliard back in the late 1970s when I began here as a pianist (before the collaborative piano department was founded). I know that he was delighted by the great strides the School has made in honoring this very honorable profession.
—Brian Zeger, Collaborative Piano; Artistic Director, Vocal Arts
We have lost a great one. Marshall was a superb musician and pianist and a gentle soul from an earlier and better time, I think. He was full of delighted and genuine passion for music and devoted as a teacher. His ways were understated, but his lessons, profound. I will never forget Marshall’s elegant restraint and gentility. He was a wonderful and romantic-styled pianist and his exquisitely voiced sound will ever remain in my ears. He loved to talk about his family and was so proud of them!
Marshall began the collaborative piano department’s popular Liederabend series and generations of our performing students as well as a large and enthusiastic audience will ever thank him for what that series continues to mean to us. A large light has been extinguished and we are diminished by the loss of this wonderful colleague and friend.
—Margo Garrett, Collaborative Piano
As a teacher, Marshall Williamson had an impact on so many lives, not with theories or lectures, but with the humanity of his approach to understanding and performing the music he loved so.
He didn’t talk much, but what he would say went to the core of things. What he left unsaid made you think. There was a calm passion in his demeanor and in his playing. His kindness was infectious—we felt like better people just being around him.
There was a delightful exuberance about him, nevertheless an inspiring one, that made him burst with joy and exclaim after a good class performance: “We should have recorded it!” Or: “Isn’t this one of the most beautiful songs ever written?” Or—the worst comment he would ever make—“there is hope...”
He never said “goodbye” to me: he would bid me “farewell,” after each lesson, after each phone conversation, after each encounter.
—Cristina Stanescu (M.M. ’93, D.M.A ’99, accompanying), founding director of the collaborative piano department at Mannes College the New School for Music, and a student of Williams at Juilliard