This is Samuel SavoirFaire Williams (Jazzviolinist). I am an avid fan of "our" Chicago Reader, being a Chicago native. I am also a fan of Nicole Mitchell ["An Improvised Life" by Peter Margasak, August 3], having shared in numerous memorable moments performing with BEE [Black Earth Ensemble] over the years. While I was certainly pleased, even exuberant, about the front page story that was written about Nicole, I must say that I was shocked and disheartened to read such a blatant misrepresentation of our working relationship--"have developed significantly under her tutelage." I doubt seriously that Nicole would have said that she has mentored me or been in a position to teach me anything about improvisation except that she had a certain focus on fearlessness and a specific sound that she was looking for from us as her bandmates.
BEE was begun and still is a collaborative effort. Not just in the sense of performing as a group, but since its conception. Nicole has achieved many great things--finishing her degrees, community outreach, copresident of the AACM. But none of this did she do with out being helped by a number of musicians, including myself, working with her to help her achieve her goals.
Nicole is very special. I as well as other band members have proudly sacrificed (tremendously) in order for Nicole to have received these and other honors. But to insinuate now that because Nicole has achieved so many honors that I or any other of her band members were receiving some sort of instruction on improvisation is quite disrespectful to me and them.
Truth be told, if we as her fellow band members had not committed a considerably high level of skillful musicianship and rehearsal time none of these projects would have gotten off the ground. I'm sure that Nicole is thoroughly appreciative of our contributions to her success. Because if she wasn't genuine we would not have invested so much time in her dream. But please do not put me in any bag as a student of the Nicole Mitchell School of Music. I have surely taught and or shared as much if not more knowledge of music and business and personal time and life experience with Nicole as she has with me.
And last but not least I doubt sincerely that there are any other musicians in the world that could have successfully collaborated with Nicole to have created the music that we performed and recorded. It was and will remain a unique and timeless series of recordings.
Samuel SavoirFaire Williams
Violinist / Violist