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Scholarship Recipient Update – Clifton Williams

24-year-old pianist, Clifton Williams appeared on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley on  Show 195, recorded in March 2009 at age 19, and then again on Show 296, recorded in October 2014 at age 22. In conjunction with his first performance on the show, he also received From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. Here a quick update on what he’s been up to since then, and some thoughts on how the award impacted his life.


Clifton Williams - Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist


In the summer prior to his senior year of high school, Clifton attended two music camps: one for classical music and one for jazz. These experiences ultimately lead Clifton to transition away from classical music and towards jazz, rhythm, and blues.

He received his bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Contemporary Writing and Production from the Berklee School of Music in 2014. Soon after, he made a life for himself in Los Angeles working as a middle school music teacher.

Recently, however, Clifton has begun to earn his living as a full-time musician and composer and is currently the keyboardist for songwriter and Grammy Award winner Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.

Here is what Clifton said about receiving the Award:

“The Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award basically changed my life. I was 17 and a junior in high school. As I approached my senior year I was trying to decide what to do and I wasn’t sure about the classical route or jazz. The funds from the scholarship enabled me to go to two camps. First I attended University of Indiana Jacobs Music School Summer Camp. It was fantastic! I loved it. For the second half of the summer I went to the Berklee School of Music five week summer camp in Boston. At the Berklee program I auditioned for a scholarship to attend Berklee full time. As it turned out I received a full scholarship (covering tuition) which later they extended to be a Presidential Scholarship (which covered room and board). If I hadn’t had the JKC funds to attend Berklee’s camp, I definitely would not have then gotten that Presidential Scholarship. Without the Jack Kent Cooke funds I don’t think I would be in Los Angeles right now achieving my goals.”

Learn more about Clifton and listen to Clifton on Shows 195 and 296 by clicking here