Stephen Williamson is principal clarinet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appointed in 2011 by Maestro Riccardo Muti. Williamson formerly was principal clarinet of both the New York Philharmonic (2013–14) and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (2003–11). In addition, he has been a frequent guest principal clarinet with the Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra in Japan under Seiji Ozawa.
Williamson received a bachelor’s degree and performer’s certificate from the Eastman School of Music, and a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. As a Fulbright Scholar, Williamson furthered his studies at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, Germany. His past teachers include Peter Rieckhoff, Charles Neidich, Kenneth Grant, and Michael Webster. Past awards include the Saunderson Award from the Coleman Chamber Music Competition, the 1997 New York Concert Artist Guild Competition Nathan Wedeen Award, and the Grand Prize in the First Annual Buffet Crampon North American Clarinet Competition.
Williamson was recently appointed Lecturer and Head of the clarinet studio at Northwestern University and serves as clarinet faculty for the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. In June of 2019, Mr. Williamson served on the jury of the famed Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
A longtime Selmer-Paris and Vandoren artist, Stephen Williamson currently plays Selmer Signature clarinets and uses Vandoren traditional reeds with a James Pyne “Williamson” mouthpiece.