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Kai Williams '24

Kai Williams ‘24 has always been focused on process. Whether through his musical compositions or in the beauty of a particularly complex math problem, he revels in the undertaking of the task at hand. 

Music encompasses Williams’ life. His first exposure to performance came in the form of violin lessons in the second grade and subsequent clarinet lessons in the fourth grade, alongside his sister who studied piano throughout. These experiences ultimately led to his discovery of and passion for composition: “At some point, in like sixth grade, I wrote a little bit of music,” he reminisces. “By the time I was in ninth grade, I discovered MuseScore … that really jump started the process of writing a lot.” MuseScore, a music notation software, was essential to Williams' early compositions as it allowed him to notate his ideas and experiment with various instrumental palettes. He also began dabbling in piano, describing the process as self-taught: “I [would] just jam around on the piano, but no formal instruction.” 

During these years, Williams also cultivated a love of mathematics, citing long hours spent contemplating puzzle collections, reading about the history of math, and participating in competitions and summer camps. Even before Swarthmore, he knew he would study math and music during his time in college.  

While at Swarthmore, Williams has not only embraced his two passions, but has also participated in a wide range of clubs and organizations. He is a valued member of the Swarthmore Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, has served a year on the Student Government Organization (SGO) and actively participates in Swarthmore’s chapter of Effective Altruism. Within the music department, Williams has performed in the Orchestra and Chorus. Conducting has emerged as his most memorable performance experience, specifically last semester’s production of The Marriage of Figaro through the Fetter Chamber Music Program. “It’s this great, huge 1000 bar piece of music,” Williams says, there are, “a bunch of different voices adding to it and I think I learned a lot about conducting from that.” Conducting at Swarthmore has been a rewarding experience for Williams on the whole: “I find it is such a cool thing. I think it’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in music . . . there’s a lot of theory, there’s a lot of understanding a bunch of details and trying to synthesize it.” He specifically notes how grateful he is to Andrew Hauze ‘04 and all the members of the lab orchestra for providing the opportunity to refine his skills. 

As Williams’ time at Swarthmore nears its end, he is working hard to present his last two big projects: his senior recital and his composition for Wind Ensemble. Williams’ senior recital will be on Friday, March 29th at 4:30 pm in the Lang Concert Hall and is part of his honors preparation in composition. “I wanted to write a suite of violin and piano music that kind of represented a lot of ideas that had been floating around for a while,” he remarks. “I want it to be a culmination . . . of my compositional experience”.

Some of the inspiration for this work harkens back to his early days: “One of the movements is based off . . . something I wrote freshman year which was based off of something I wrote when I was like 10, which is the first idea that I really found beautiful.” Williams’ composition for Wind Ensemble (performance date Friday, April 12th in the Lang Concert Hall) similarly displays his growth as a composer: “It’s still clearly a composition where I’m learning a lot, but it doesn’t feel as amateurish. It’s the first time I’ve written for the Wind Ensemble, but I’ve really liked how it turned out.” 

After graduation, Williams isn’t sure exactly what he’d like to do, however, he is sure that music will continue to be an important part of his life.  


Favorite music course at Swarthmore: Songwriting with Professor Alex Bechtel 

Favorite music-making experience at Swarthmore: My Lunch Hour Concert with Ruby Novogrodsky. 

What you'll miss about Swat: The people! 

Sound or noise that you love: That chord that trains make … or the steam hiss of LPAC. 

Sound or noise that you hate: Snare drums 

Last song you listened to: The Karelia Suite by Sibelius 

Final thoughts: Room 416 has my favorite practice piano