February 20, 2024

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Remembering legendary saxophonist Tony Williams: Video, Photos

Tony Williams (1931 – November 11th, 2023) The stalwart Philadelphia saxophonist worked with many of that city’s stars, released two of his own albums since the ‘90s, was a member of the band on the Bill Cosby Show and founded the Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival and the Mt. Airy Cultural Center, the latter providing music instruction for many of today’s stars. Williams died at 92.

He grew up playing the horn as a youngster and soon found his love with the music. He played in school bands in high school (Abington High School) and later went to college at Tennessee A & I (presently known as Tennessee State University); played with their band and also was an outstanding sprinter on their track team. He transfered to Central State University in Ohio and hooked up with music and athletic opportunities there.

Williams was a jazz musician for over 50 years. Williams spent his early years raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, his family later moved up north, where he grew up outside of Philadelphia in Crestmont, Pennsylvania.

Tony Williams, saxophonist who mentored generations of Philly jazz talent,  has died at 92 | WRTI

Williams grew up playing the horn as a youngster and soon discovered his love for music. He played in school bands in high school (Abington High School) and later went to college at Tennessee A & I (presently known as Tennessee State University), played with their band and was an outstanding sprinter on their track team. He later transferred to Central State University in Ohio and hooked up with music and athletic opportunities there.

Williams also had a passion to “keep jazz alive,” so it was not enough for him just to be a professional musician. He had to give back, and he did it in a way that could not be matched by many.

Williams started a jazz theory and music program and jazz band at Ada H. Lewis Middle School. Not long after, he founded the Mount Airy Cultural Center, Inc. of which he was the founder and director.

After graduating from Central State he spent time in the military as he found the way to also play in the 75th Army Band at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. Tony is a true educator as well as a great musician. He taught in the Philadelphia School System for over 25 years and retired after a period of teaching health & physical education, coaching and being a vice principal.

Music was always in Tony’s blood, schedule and lifestyle. Tony Williams found a way to teach, coach, administrate and perform music professionally in the Philadelphia area as well as on the road nationally and internationally while teaching, coaching and administrating for over 25 years at Barrett Junior High School in South Philadelphia, Ada Lewis and Amy 6 in Germantown/Mt. Airy Philadelphia.

Tony had many opportunities to travel and play music full time on the road but Tony had a passion and love for his wife, Gloria and 3 children. Tony’s family has been a strong part of the backbone and support of his music. Gloria had to be considered Tony’s biggest supporter. Greg (Tony’s oldest son) is the owner of BDG Records which is heavily involved in Tony’s promotions. Antoinette (Tony’s daughter) played a solid part behind the scenes in Tony’s productions and engagements. Glenn (Tony’s youngest son) is a gifted and talented saxophonist, pianist and recording artist.

Tony also had a passion to “keep jazz alive” so it was not enough for Tony just to be a professional musician. He had to give back and he did that in a way that can not be matched by many. Tony Williams started a jazz theory and music program in his school; Ada H. Lewis Middle School Jazz Band. Not long after, he started his own jazz theory and music program that is now known as the Mount Airy Cultural Center, Inc. which he is the founder and director. Link on to www.maccjazz.org to get more information about the Mount Airy Cultural Center, Inc.

There are well known musicians that came from those two programs that Tony Williams mentored and influenced. Some of them include James Lloyd, Curtis Harmon, Cedric Napolean (all from Pieces Of A Dream); Glenn Williams, Mark Mitchell, Joey DeFrancesco, Mark Henry, Leon Jordan, Leon Jordan, Jr., Duane Eubanks, Derrick Bush, Daryl Hall, Christian McBride, Pamela Williams and his son Glenn Williams just to name a few. Throughout the years, Tony and the Mount Airy Cultural Center has received a great amount of support from many volunteers and some of the surrounding areas finest musicians. Some of them include Sonny Hoxter, Tommy Grice, Joe Stevenson, Wesley Norton, Dr. Val Jennings, Don Wilson, Mark Mitchell, Mike Boone, Don “Doc” Collins, Craig McIver, Stan Wilson and Leon Jordan.

Has played with many of the world's greatest - Tony Williams, 81, is Mt.  Airy's most saxy jazz legend | The Chestnut Hill Local

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