Through the gift of music, Lou Williamson’s legacy lives on.
In the wake of his passing from lung cancer, the highly-regarded Langford musician – he created the curriculum for McGill University’s Bachelor of Arts Musical Performance in Jazz Drum Set – is giving a boost to the musicians of tomorrow.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be in the capacity to reward young musicians who are trying to make a go of it,” said Chris Millington, a long-time friend who was entrusted with the Lou Williamson Scholarship Fund. “It’s a very difficult business, and to sit and put the meal down and put the roof over your head, people have no concept of what that takes.”
The fund will award five scholarships this year totalling $7,000 to up-and-coming musicians at Musicfest Canada in Toronto, one of the largest music festivals of its kind in North America. Application is open to music students enrolled in band programs across Canada. Applicants’ video submissions are shortlisted, followed by an adjudicated performance of the finalists at Musicfest.
To date, eight students have been awarded $24,000 and five more will take home scholarships between $1,000 and $3,000 at the festival this month. Specific scholarships for students on the West Shore are currently in the planning stages and will focus on the community both Williamson and Millington called home for many years.
“You can never forget the people around you,” Colwood resident Millington said. “It’s nice to have a national reach … but we certainly want to help people in our local community, at our local high schools like Belmont and Royal Bay. Belmont has had an outstanding music program for years and have done a great job there.”
Millington and Williamson played together for years, meeting when both joined the Naden Band in 1991. They went on to record a number of albums together and most recently played 10 summer shows a year together as part of a 14-piece band at Butchart Gardens.
Williamson, who performed for approximately three decades, worked with the Black Watch in Montreal, two military bands and was a music teacher at McGill and Concordia University.
He also appeared in countless music festivals and workshops as a conductor, clinician and adjudicator. He passed away from lung cancer at 62 in 2009 and his wife, Maggie, died in 2013 after a heart attack. They had no children and left their entire estate to the scholarship fund.
“It is (being) carried out in a way he would be very proud of,” said Millington, who is helped on the project by wife, Eve and son, Simon. “We’re helping out a lot of kids, and a lot of them are being recognized for their talent and the craft they are honing.”
Eve Millington said Williamson’s work and music touched the community, proof of which came at his celebration of life, where more than 400 gathered from around Canada to pay their respects. The West Shore resident who gave much to the community he lived in for two decades, continues to give even after his passing and will do so for the next 10-15 years, or until the funds run out.
“I have witnessed firsthand the struggles even extremely talented, gifted musicians go through in life to do what they do,” Eve said. “A lot of people don’t understand that professional musicians make a tremendous about of personal sacrifice to do what they do for a living. It’s a tremendous pleasure and honour to be able to help out kids who have already demonstrated that commitment and dedication.”
To find out more about the fund, visit https://www.facebook.com/louisrossiwilliamson