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The DIOP Circle V.9

August 18th, 2019


Yasmin Williams

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

We're delighted this week to have Yasmin Williams. She swears by Midtown and is our 189th customer. And she'll tell us about how she came into her own as a singer and a songwriter.

Thanks as always, Yasmin:

First, you beat Guitar Hero 2 on expert level. Then you beg your parents for an actual guitar.

They got me a red Epiphone SG Special electric guitar. My first experience with instruments was learning to play the clarinet in the third grade. Guitar was something different entirely. For one thing, I wasn’t playing orchestral music.

Instead I played music I listened to like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. That’s how I first learned to appreciate electric guitar.

I tried taking lessons in 9th grade for a little over a month. My teacher only really taught the Blues. After learning one finger style song, I got a little bored. Watching videos on YouTube, all I’d ever seen was people strum chords. But then I saw videos of people playing acoustic guitars percussively and I was hooked.

I began teaching myself to play acoustic guitar. The toughest part was actually going back and learning scales. I wanted to go right into more advanced techniques but couldn’t without the discipline to tackle the basics first. It also helped me as I started to write my own music.

I attended a high school with a performing arts program so it was natural that I’d begin to perform. Although I had fun, I wasn’t sure I could make music as a profession. I studied music technology so I was mostly used to working in and out of studios building things.

And while my teachers were musicians in some capacity or another, it appeared that teaching was the only viable career.

My perception of what was possible changed when I had the opportunity to make an Extended Play of five original songs. I played all the instruments on it including electric and acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Because I also recorded and mixed it myself, it took over a year to finish.

Once I did, I felt much more confident in my music. We even put on an EP release concert. I knew that I should put more energy into building a music career.

I studied Music Theory and Composition at New York University. It was quite aculture shock going from the suburbs to the city but I learned what it takes to be a good musician.

I won my college’s talent show, Ultra Violet Live, my freshman year and played events and gigs at my school and around the city.

After I graduated, I released my first album “Unwind” in May 2018. Shortly after, I entered a contest to appear on National Public Radio’s program Tiny Desk. I didn’t win, but was invited to be on NPR’s show, Weekend Edition. It completely changed the trajectory of my career.

The day the interview aired, impressions of my album jumped up 4,217,133% and it charted at #5 on Amazon’s Best New Releases album list (one behind Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s album Everything Is Love!).

It appeared on iTunes Best Albums and even made Billboard’s Heatseekers chart at #15 the next week.

All of this meant that I had to take my music even more seriously. I’m able to have a meaningful career without sacrificing my style. And it’s worked. I’ve performed at the Kennedy Center, Millennium Stage, Woodsongs, Arena Stage, the Bitter End, and toured around the East Coast.

I’ve been featured in magazines I first started reading ten years ago when I first started playing guitar. I definitely didn’t expect to be in this position so soon out of college. It’s encouraging when people tell me they like my music because of how different it is from what they normally hear, be it on the radio or in general.


The DIOP Circle V.9

August 18th, 2019


Yasmin Williams

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

We're delighted this week to have Yasmin Williams. She swears by Midtown and is our 189th customer. And she'll tell us about how she came into her own as a singer and a songwriter.

Thanks as always, Yasmin:

First, you beat Guitar Hero 2 on expert level. Then you beg your parents for an actual guitar.

They got me a red Epiphone SG Special electric guitar. My first experience with instruments was learning to play the clarinet in the third grade. Guitar was something different entirely. For one thing, I wasn’t playing orchestral music.

Instead I played music I listened to like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. That’s how I first learned to appreciate electric guitar.

I tried taking lessons in 9th grade for a little over a month. My teacher only really taught the Blues. After learning one finger style song, I got a little bored. Watching videos on YouTube, all I’d ever seen was people strum chords. But then I saw videos of people playing acoustic guitars percussively and I was hooked.

I began teaching myself to play acoustic guitar. The toughest part was actually going back and learning scales. I wanted to go right into more advanced techniques but couldn’t without the discipline to tackle the basics first. It also helped me as I started to write my own music.

I attended a high school with a performing arts program so it was natural that I’d begin to perform. Although I had fun, I wasn’t sure I could make music as a profession. I studied music technology so I was mostly used to working in and out of studios building things.

And while my teachers were musicians in some capacity or another, it appeared that teaching was the only viable career.

My perception of what was possible changed when I had the opportunity to make an Extended Play of five original songs. I played all the instruments on it including electric and acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Because I also recorded and mixed it myself, it took over a year to finish.

Once I did, I felt much more confident in my music. We even put on an EP release concert. I knew that I should put more energy into building a music career.

I studied Music Theory and Composition at New York University. It was quite aculture shock going from the suburbs to the city but I learned what it takes to be a good musician.

I won my college’s talent show, Ultra Violet Live, my freshman year and played events and gigs at my school and around the city.

After I graduated, I released my first album “Unwind” in May 2018. Shortly after, I entered a contest to appear on National Public Radio’s program Tiny Desk. I didn’t win, but was invited to be on NPR’s show, Weekend Edition. It completely changed the trajectory of my career.

The day the interview aired, impressions of my album jumped up 4,217,133% and it charted at #5 on Amazon’s Best New Releases album list (one behind Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s album Everything Is Love!).

It appeared on iTunes Best Albums and even made Billboard’s Heatseekers chart at #15 the next week.

All of this meant that I had to take my music even more seriously. I’m able to have a meaningful career without sacrificing my style. And it’s worked. I’ve performed at the Kennedy Center, Millennium Stage, Woodsongs, Arena Stage, the Bitter End, and toured around the East Coast.

I’ve been featured in magazines I first started reading ten years ago when I first started playing guitar. I definitely didn’t expect to be in this position so soon out of college. It’s encouraging when people tell me they like my music because of how different it is from what they normally hear, be it on the radio or in general.

It’s been a fun ride so far. My career is just getting started but I can already tell it’ll be easier in the long run if I just be myself. People, often with good intentions, suggest I change things about myself to get further, from what I wear to the songs I play.

But I wouldn’t be here today if I compromised those things. Just be yourself.


By Yasmin Williams

Follow Yasmin @guitar.yaz and hear more of her music at yasminwilliamsmusic.com

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


It’s been a fun ride so far. My career is just getting started but I can already tell it’ll be easier in the long run if I just be myself. People, often with good intentions, suggest I change things about myself to get further, from what I wear to the songs I play.

But I wouldn’t be here today if I compromised those things. Just be yourself.

- Yasmin Williams


Follow Yasmin @guitar.yaz and hear more of her music at yasminwilliamsmusic.com

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.