Putnam County Middle School is in for a treat with its new choir director, a classically trained opera and musical theatre singer who placed as a semi-finalist in a national competition.
Ontario Williams, a 2015 Baldwin High School graduate, graduated from Augusta University in December 2020 and was hired at Putnam County Middle School in January.
Kathy Carroll, Williams’ former chorus teacher from Baldwin, reached out after his graduation and asked if he was interested in a position at the Putnam County Middle School, and when he said yes, she lined up an interview.
Williams began dabbling in music in seventh grade and had a casual interest through 10th grade. It was in his 11th and 12th grades he realized it was more than a casual interest.
“My chorus teacher [Carroll] really pushed me,” Williams said. “She would take away music opportunities if I wasn’t doing well in academic classes.”
And that was what made him realize he loved music.
Carroll used to visit Williams’ academic classes to ensure he was on-task and passing, and music was “like a reward.”
In 11th grade, Williams was in quartet, and the quartet placed first in region. The next year, Williams had the opportunity to be a literary soloist, and he placed first both in region and in state, at which point he thought, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe I can sing.’
Williams also had the chance to go to Allstate Chorus in 12th grade, which is the highest music honor for a chorus student, and that was when he decided to major in music.
Now, Williams is classically trained in both opera and musical theatre, and his choice of songs are spirituals.
His last semester of college, Williams participated in the Broadway’s Next on Stage competition and placed in the top 10. Since he came onboard at Putnam Middle School, he has competed in the Southeastern Region National Association of Teachers Singing (SERNATS) in two categories: Musical theatre and American Negro spirituals. He was first place in both categories and went on to compete in the National Association of Teachers Singing (NATS), where he was a semi-finalist, meaning he was in the top 12, nationwide.
“It was amazing, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Williams said of his NATS experience. “I’m hoping I’ll do it again next year, and [that] I can make it all the way, but I’m very satisfied with what I’ve done so far.”
Williams is readily available to sing at events and hopes to get himself and his students out there to raise money for the choir program.
This year, Williams plans to focus on Allstate Chorus, and has a “Putnam County Middle School Got Talent” planned. There is currently a new studio under construction at the middle school, which Williams is excited about.
His goal is to give his students the best experience that also supports their needs. In the future, Williams hopes to implement a class for original compositions, as well as an advanced chorus to teach more difficult music and theory.