Junius W. Williams oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Newark, New Jersey, 2011-07-20.
JM: Yeah. So, that would have been during your high school years?
JW: Yeah. You want me to say that again?
JM: No, no, that’s fine. Um, did, um, [10:00] did - you had mentioned to me earlier when we were chatting before we started the interview that you thought very seriously about taking music, um, making music your life and going to school to study music in college.
JW: Um-hmm, um-hmm.
JM: How did you, how did you resolve upon the path towards Amherst?
JW: Well, my father was a professional musician, and he had played in some bands in Atlantic City, where he grew up, and other places. And he knew what the life of an itinerant musician was, playing in bands. So, he did not let me play in the pickup bands, uh, in Richmond. I was good on alto saxophone, and people asked me to play. But he said, “No, can’t do it. I’m not going to let you go out here and do that.”
And then, they discouraged me from becoming a musician, because they didn’t want me to have that kind of life of performance on the road, nor did they want me to be a music teacher in school, because they said that was too precarious in terms of the money. But I wanted to be a musician, so, uh, I applied to Northwestern, because I saw that band on television at some football game, some Big Ten football game, and I said, “That’s where I want to go to school!”
JM: Because -?
JW: Because of the band. And I saw myself in that band. I played clarinet, saxophones, and drums at that point. And I was pretty good on all of them. So, I knew I would have a chance, at least, to get into that band. So, I got accepted at Northwestern, because I had good grades. I was valedictorian of my class. I had a 3.96 out of a 4.0 average. But they didn’t give me any money.
Amherst College, on the other hand, which was recommended by a friend in the family, who had gone to Amherst and had just graduated the year before, said, “That’s the best small college in the country.” I didn’t know Amherst from Edison, but they gave me a free ride. They gave me the full package, full scholarship. So, of course, there was no doubt I was going to Amherst.