Gateway Music Outreach (GMO) and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) create incredible opportunities for students by providing programs that work alongside each other. One amazing example is when student, Essence Williams, joined GMO and participated in SLSO’s “Peer to Peer Program” allowing her to work with established musicians and exposing her to even more opportunities. Williams is now a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. Read the full story below!

Essence Williams

Essence Williams


Webster Groves High School

As a new member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, Essence Williams is looking forward to her first season! At the age of twelve, Williams started playing the violin. Since then, she has come to love the instrument even more. Williams is currently an incoming senior at Webster Groves High School. In school, Essence is a member of the National Honors Society and French National Honors Society. Outside of her school orchestra, she is heavily involved in music. Williams recently concluded her first year as a member of the Young People’s Symphonic Orchestra at Webster University’s Community Music School. Previously, Williams was a member of the Young People’s Concert Orchestra for two years at CMS. Shortly after she began playing her instrument, Williams joined the Gateway Music Outreach (GMO) program led by James McKay. Through GMO, Williams has had many opportunities to collaborate with established artists, such as multiple Grammy Award winner Michael McDonald and Grammy-nominated duo Black Violin. She has also had opportunities to work with soul singer, Brian Owens and upcoming artist, Malena Smith. For the past four years, Essence has been a member of the SLSO’s Peer to Peer Program alongside GMO. She has had the chance to participate in masterclasses with SLSO violinists Joo Kim and David Halen. Essence is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that she has received.

In her free time, Essence enjoys doing arts and crafts, reading, playing with her dog Rocky, and spending time with her friends and family. After high school, Essence plans to work towards a career in Dentistry and Music Performance. 

Essence would like to thank her GMO and Peer to Peer family: James McKay, Jessica Gates-Little, Maureen Byrne, Joseph Hendricks and Malena Smith. She would also like to thank her teachers and mentors: John McGrosso, Patrick Jackson, Andrew Pulliam, Adrian Walker, and Joo Kim. In addition, Essence would like to thank SLSYO alumni: Allie Peng, Becky Lang, and Ellie Yang. Lastly, Essence would like to thank her family, especially her mom for always being her number one fan!

Original Post by SLSO – See Original Post Here