By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Being surrounded by music from an early age was the start of an education in arts for one Stillwater girl.
Samantha Williamson said she and her family, including six siblings, used to sing hymns when they would have Bible study time together.
“I was born in kind of a musical family,” she said.
Williamson’s focus turned to the violin for a few reasons.
“I had this best friend that played violin with her sister,” she said. “They did duets and things and played at church.”
The idea intrigued Williamson, but it wasn’t the first time she had been introduced to violin. Her family took a trip to Oklahoma City three years earlier to see her older brother perform in a home-school convention. At that concert, Williamson saw a performance led by instructor Karen Khanagov.
“It was actually my favorite part of the concert,” Williamson’s mother said. “My own kid was in it. I almost cried because it was parents and tiny, teeny kids. I’d never seen anything like it. I was like, ‘Someday, that’s what I want to do.’”
Years later, Williamson, her sister Grace, brother Tyler and mother Jill, all began taking a master class once a week with Khanagov.
“We actually sold some things in our house,” Jill Williamson said. “We sold some old curriculum, some books and even some old instruments we had.”
Williamson said she was excited to start. She said she didn’t really practice in the beginning, instead wanting to play more.
“Now, in the past year and a half, (practice) was about up to an hour,” she said.
Six months later, Williamson, her mother and sister all began to share a private class in addition to the master class. The children received scholarships to the OCU Performing Arts Academy.
The first few private lessons were difficult and there were times when Williamson said she wanted to quit. But a breakthrough moment came at the right time.
“I have been in 4-H in Payne County,” Williamson said. “It was called 4-Him 4-H. There was a thing called ‘Share the Fun’ and a lot of us performed at that.”
Williamson decided to enter the talent competition with her violin.
“I was about six months into it and I won the first time I did it,” she said. “That was pretty exciting for me because I was competing with older kids, too, up to high school.”
She said that helped her keep the motivation to continue.
However, Williamson’s musical talent extends to more than the violin. She has also studied piano, flute and has recently purchased a banjo.
“Mom kind of told me that her dream was our family playing music together,” Williamson said. “(With) three of us playing violin, we get to do a lot of playing together. I’ve spent a lot more time on violin and getting more advanced on it. You have to spend more time on it.”
In recent years, Williamson has tried her hand at the Music Olympics.
“It’s a lot of violinists and string players from all over Oklahoma, very talented people and 2011 was my first year,” she said. “I really was just doing it for experience that year being only a year and a half into (violin) or so. My teacher thought it would be a great experience to see the other amazing players.”
The next year, she received a Meyer’s Special Recognition award. Finally, this year, she was not only named the violin solo winner but the overall winner in the Keith Strings Competition. Williamson’s mother said comments on her judging sheet included “a goosebump performance” and that her playing was “magical.”
“It was really, really big to be able to win that because knowing how many advanced players came before me who had won,” Williamson said. “Just knowing that I was one of those people, too, was really exciting.”
Williamson finished studying with Khanagov as of last April and now spends time studying under her mother and OSU graduate student Tim Miller.
“I watch the professionals and I watch other kids that are older than me and younger even, that play so advanced,” she said.
Williamson even has a playlist on YouTube called her “dream pieces,” which she would like to advance enough to play.
As for her future, she has plans for using her talent.
“I just really love playing the music,” she said. “I want to evangelize in different countries when I grow up and am old enough. I feel like I could use music to do that. I think it would be really neat to travel to different countries and thinking that if I did become famous, I could play music and evangelize at the same time because I’d have huge crowds and it would be more effective even.”