OAKLAND -- Kenneth Williams will join Skyline High School as the school's new director of instrumental music, one of the school's flagship programs.

Williams will be the school's seventh musical director since the school opened in 1961. This is Williams' first job with the Oakland Unified School District.

Williams comes to Oakland from the Tracy Learning Center in Tracy, a charter school, where he was the director of music since 2012. Williams worked in after-school programs and gave private music lessons during his teenage years. He began his teaching career at his alma mater, Oak Grove High School in San Jose, before moving on to Willow Glen Middle School and Willow Glen High School, where he became the director of instrumental music.

Williams said that he came to the Oakland district because he wanted to be more than just a band director. "I want the experience of building a music program," he said. "I want to work with students that want to get better and with parents that want to build a program."

"The music teacher doesn't show up in September, teach a scripted, state-imposed curriculum for 10 months and then go home in June. A good instrumental music teacher is a program builder who will work ridiculous hours for years, drive enrollment of high-achieving students and bring recognition to your school," said Ted Allen, who headed Skyline High's music program from 1999 to 2008, and who has remained involved in the program ever since.


Advertisement

By the end of July, Williams had already held multiple parent meetings to gather input on the direction of the program. He said he had been researching the history of the program, listening to recordings of past performances dating back to the 1964 to give the program a historical context. The school has long been known for its jazz band.

"I want to bring all of the programs up to the level of the jazz band," Williams said. His goal is to provide the other programs with the same public exposure that the jazz band has had in recent years. Skyline High offers jazz band, guitar, orchestra, concert band and marching band, all of which will be taught by Williams.

"I see this program as one of the top programs in the Bay Area within the next five years, and one of the top programs in the state within 10 years," Williams said.

Williams began his music career playing the clarinet, followed by the bass clarinet and bassoon before settling on the trombone by the time he was in the ninth grade. He obtained a bachelor's of music in jazz performance and trombone from California State University, Northridge. He received his teaching credential from National University in San Jose.

Amy Voge's daughter is a senior, playing the alto saxophone in the jazz band. Playing music has been one of the best parts of her daughter's high school experience.

"I look forward to the transition. I'd like to see things stronger and see things in place to make it easy for parents to help. The biggest problem is that there isn't enough money," Voge said.

Williams hopes to reach out to the program's alumni and make connections with the community outside of Skyline in hopes of attracting a variety of additional resources to the program.

FYI
For more information about Skyline's music program, go to Skylinejazz.weebley.com, or contact kwilliams.skylineband@gmail.com.