CARLSBAD — Gospel singer Yvette Williams will perform at the Light Up a Life celebration sponsored by the Hospice of the North Coast at the Oceanside Museum of Art from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 5. The tree lighting ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to pay tribute to a loved one who has passed.
Williams is also project manager for the hospice and organizer of the event.
She learned about music and multitasking, from her mother, Sharon L. Graham, a popular gospel singer, full-time pastor and air traffic controller assigned to quality assurance with the FAA in Chicago.
“Growing up I saw my mother singing on television and thought, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Williams remembers. “I bought audio tapes and created a private space on the living room floor where I would sit, Indian-style, to practice. I faced the wall because it had the right acoustics.”
Williams says she constantly begged the choir leader to join the choir but was unsuccessful until the age of 13 when she became its youngest member. Soon worshipers began recruiting her to perform at other concerts and community events.
“Sometimes I would get frustrated when I didn’t have any accompaniment,” she laments. “Then a musician told me that the test of a good singer was being able to sing without a musician. I learned he was right.”
Williams was still a teenager when she learned another important lesson after being recruited to sing backup vocals for Grammy-nominated gospel singer Vanessa Bell Armstrong.
“They put me in a limo and gave me a couple of hundred dollars,” she remembers. “But I forgot the lyrics. Later I thought, ‘You have to take authority over your nerves and not allow them to control you.’”
She succeeded and was subsequently recruited by Milton Brunson to join the famed Thompson Community Singers, a position for which most singers are required to audition. Williams traveled worldwide with the choir and recorded four albums.
“R. Kelly was at one of the recording sessions and took an interest in my talent,” she said. “He asked me to sing backup in his song, ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ from the movie ‘Space Jam.’” The recording went on to win three Grammys.
Like her mother, Williams juggled performing with a full-time career. This included management positions for a major healthcare provider, an entertainment company she co-founded and a nonprofit promoting parental involvement.
In April 2009, Williams joined Hospice of the North Coast as a project manager, assuming responsibility for the website, social media, special events and fundraising.
To contain costs for the Light Up A Life event, Williams offered her singing as an in-kind gift.
“I have the privilege of riding a gift and sharing it,” she said. “Working for hospice causes me to live a life of purpose. I’m going to continue my music, even if it’s not with the intent of being rich and famous. It’s what I’m born to do.”
Bobbie Hoder is president of the board of directors of the hospice.
“Yvette is one of the most creative and energetic individuals with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working,” she said. “She brings her own special style to each of her endeavors, and we love her for it and are most delighted to have her on ‘the team.’”
Williams will be offering her interpretation of the song “Gone, But Not Forgotten” written by Percy Baty and a duet with Jason Brown of “For Good” from the stage production of “Wicked.”
World-renowned violinist Beth Folsom will also be a featured performer.
The Oceanside Museum of Art is located at 704 Pier View Way. To register for Light Up a Life, visit hospicenorthcoast.org or call the hospice’s RSVP event line at (760) 448-4262.