Orlando Williams Plans to Lead UHD Chorale on ‘Note-Worthy’ Journey
By Hayden Bergman
Orlando Williams’ first job in music was at Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he and his cousin performed at the weekly worship service for 10 bucks a Sunday. He’s making more than that now as the newly appointed Director of Choral Activities at UHD, but his passion for music—and the community it creates—remains the same. “I would go to church with my aunt, and you could hear the harmonies … I couldn’t wait to get inside ... when I got home, I would reenact what I saw, pretending to be the choir, choir director, the pianist, everyone.” Those experiences led to Williams getting a keyboard (a major investment by his mother), which became weekly piano lessons, and, in turn, a career in music.
Among his many qualifications is a Master of Music Education in Choral Conducting from Florida State University, as well as more than a decade of experience in various local organizations, including Voices of Houston, a choral ensemble that seeks to build community through “the performance and practice of the Negro Spiritual,” one of the most significant forms in American folksong and culture. He also brings a robust knowledge of Western European and non-Western European music practices, including jazz studies, gospel, and world music. Suffice it to say, then, that Williams is just the person for the job.
And like his experience, his plans for the UHD Chorale are myriad, as he hopes to build a more robust music experience for students and stage several performances (a winter concert among them), as well as host music and choir festivals on campus with the aim of providing music education to area high school students and provide pedagogical training for local music educators. More than anything, though, Williams says his aim is to “help people grow, develop, and feel included,” and he wants the campus community to know: “[The UHD Chorale is] here, ready to serve, and ready to share our beautiful music.”
And we should thank him, as there are tangible benefits in store for those who join UHD Chorale. More and more, scientific research suggests that singing in a group can relieve stress, improve lung function, and stimulate a stronger immune response. In addition to these benefits, students who join even one organization during their time on campus have been shown to perform better academically.
When Williams speaks of how music helped him find community (and how he hopes to build that community here on campus), you can’t help but believe him wholeheartedly—his voice is resonant and full and has a refreshingly earnest timbre. “I saw how being in [the choir] changed our lives and enlightened us, and it felt like a family,” he said. “If you are passionate about music, and you’re looking for your tribe, UHD Chorale is the place to be.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.