Choir director on a musical journey


Jarius “Jay” Williams. 
Photo credit: Shamiya Harris

A musician by day and choir director by night, Jarius “Jay” Williams began his musical journey at Greater St. Mark Primitive Baptist Church. He was the piano player for the youth choir.

His grandmother, Carrie Butler, who is also a member, gave him his piano lessons as a young boy out of his grandfather’s cleaners in nearby Havana.

Williams said he received his vision of directing choir back in 2009 at the tender age of 16 while playing the piano for the youth choir and directing it. At 16, he began his community choir Jay Williams and Total Praise with just his grandmother, mother, cousins and a few friends.

“My goal is to bring real choir music back to Tallahassee,” Williams said.

Williams’ family grew up in the Lake Jackson community in Tallahassee and they all have a musical background. Williams came out with his first EP before the age of 20 and has traveled all over the U.S sharing his gift. One of his original members, Cambridge McGill, who is also featured on both of Total Praises albums, said it is an honor working with him. Williams is serious about his craft, he said.

 “Rehearsals are always, always, always uplifting no matter what is  going on. We always find time to give God total praise,” McGill said.

Nine years later Williams is still working in the community and Total Praise has released its second album, “Total Praise Experience II.”

 Williams has since became the new choir director for the FAMU gospel choir and plans on using his gift of knowing good choir music to reach many throughout the community.

Williams said he looks up to legends as the late gospel musician and founder of Cosmopolitan church of prayer, Charles G. Hayes and Ricky Dillard as his mentors. He hopes that they can guide him in the right direction to become a legend in choir music.

Williams also says since 2009 Total Praise has grown and the  members are more like family than anything else. The group consists of several altos, sopranos and tenors. And, yes, his grandmother is still singing with total praise after recently suffering a stroke. He uses her as his motivation to keep going and keep his dream alive. He says his grandmother never made excuses and still presses on even through illness.

 He plans to make her proud. She is also featured on his album as well.