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GNS 100: 300 (and more) for 300 (and more)

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“Don’t be afraid to make changes in your life if you’re not happy with where you are.” That was the central message—and key metaphor—at the heart of Hollywood composer Tim Williams’ address to our school on Monday in the Hall. Williams, an Alumnus of Glenlyon, is a multi award-winning composer for film, TV, video games and theater. His presentation was wide-ranging: the attentive audience heard an insider’s perspective into major film production; we saw several clips from recent films that Williams had scored; and he found time at the end of the presentation to deliver an inspirational message. Discussing his trajectory from Glenlyon graduation to present day, Williams recounted two significant “U-turns” in his life. He started out as a pre-med student but then realized it was not for him. He then made the audience laugh by recounting how, a few years later, he “tried law” by being accepted to Osgoode Hall (at York University), then dropped out after one day (thus trying his parents’ patience). He commented upon how his alma mater helped his career along by contracting him to compose the music for the Norfolk House 70th Anniversary. But his message was simple: “Don’t be afraid to take risks and make changes in your life if you’re not happy with where you are.” Without actually needing to remind his audience of GNS’s motto, Williams then recounted “having the courage to pursue [my] dream: to compose for a West End show.” That he did, with Napoleon—upon which he collaborated with fellow Canadian, Andrew Sabiston. “With this dream accomplished,” Williams said, “I embarked upon the pursuit of an even bigger ambition—to compose for film in Hollywood.” One of the recurring taglines we use in the promotion of our school is “GNS: A world of opportunity.” Williams reinforced the power of taking advantage of the small opportunities that life occasionally provides in his recounting of his ‘big break’. Working on the massive blockbuster 300, Williams was afforded the opportunity to compose the music for the film’s final scene. Suffice to say, he never looked back after that! Williams’ presentation was not only inspirational, but it was fascinating as well. The audience was rapt as he described the pressures facing the modern film composer: “Most people think that when the movie trailers are out, that ‘that’s it’. But that’s really when a film composer’s job is just beginning! The turnaround time between trailer and release is very narrow,” Williams chuckled. It was also quite instructive to see the ‘magic’ required to marry the score to the action on the screen—something we all-too-easily take for granted as we enjoy any film production. Williams’ final message was simple and humble: “I attribute so much of my success—success and joy, actually—to collaboration…to working with a team of people.” With our Head Boy and Head Girl in absentia due to IB exams, Senior School Principal Mr. Calderwood was called upon, impromptu, to thank Mr. Williams for his excellent presentation. Mr. Calderwood was quick on his feet in explaining the absence of the HB and HG and then pointed out how one of the IB’s primary tenets in preparing our students for the real workplace of the 21st Century is, after all, risk-taking and collaboration—and that Mr. Williams is thus an inspiring example. For the 300+ students and faculty on hand—including former Heads of School Hamish Simpson, Keith Walker and Peggy Wilmot—this was a wonderful way to close the Centennial Speakers Series. It was also another opportunity for all of us to feel proud of what our Alumni make of their lives and to see that the values of our school are carried proudly beyond the space and time of GNS.

  • winner of 3 Thea Awards—’Best Score’
  • a Dora Award nomination
  • winner of 6 ASCAP Plus Awards
  • an Emmy Award nomination