Photo of Kent Williams

Professor Emeritus J. Kent Williams, a member of the School of Music’s faculty for 42 years from 1970 to 2012, passed away on Monday, January 9th at the age of 79.

A native of South Bend, Indiana, Kent Williams attended Butler University’s Jordan School of Music and transferred to Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music where he studied percussion with George Gaber. He attended the Aspen Music School in the summer of 1964 on a scholarship from the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. Williams received his BM in Music Education from Indiana University in 1965 and then earned an MM in Percussion in 1967, also from Indiana University. He auditioned and was accepted into the US Military Academy Band at West Point where he led the Band’s percussion section and performed extensively as a jazz drummer. During his tour at West Point (1967–1970), Williams continued his percussion studies with Elden C. Bailey of the New York Philharmonic and Ed Shaughnessy of the Tonight Show Orchestra.

Williams joined UNCG’s School of Music Faculty in 1970. He was a member of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, first as principal percussionist and later as timpanist. After building a successful percussion program at UNCG, Williams earned a PhD in Music Theory from Indiana University in 1982 with a dissertation titled “Themes Composed by Jazz Musicians of the Bebop Era: A Study of Harmony, Rhythm, and Melody.” Dr. Williams published Theories and Analyses of Twentieth-Century Music (Harcourt Brace, 1997). His articles and reviews appeared in Jazz Perspectives, Music Theory Online, Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, and the Indiana Theory Review. In the School of Music, Dr. Williams proposed the first certificate program, the Post-Master’s Certificate in Music Theory Pedagogy, and was instrumental in developing the MM in Music Theory degree. 

A private service will be held for immediate family and a public celebration of life will be held at a later date. An obituary of Dr. Williams appears at <>.