James-Kimo Williams was born in Amityville, New York, and spent much of his childhood divided between Air Force bases, urban neighborhoods of Baltimore, rural Mississippi, and on his grandparents’ sharecropper farm in North Carolina. Moving to Hawaii with his father in 1967, he volunteered to serve in the military and was deployed to Vietnam in 1970.
He holds an MA in Management from Webster University as well as a BA in Composition from Berklee College of Music in Boston. As a composer, he has released four CDs of original works, including two with his fusion ensemble “Kimotion.” His symphonic works have been performed by the symphonies of Detroit, Atlanta, Savannah, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Alabama, Lancaster, PA, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, and others. His string quartet “Into The Liquid” was commissioned by the New York-based Ethel quartet and premiered at the 2013 BAM Next Wave Festival.
As a Vietnam Veteran, many of his compositions are inspired by his experience and interest in the military, including the award-winning “Symphony for the Sons of Nam.” His “Buffalo Soldiers/American Soldier” was commissioned by the West Point Military Academy in 2002 to celebrate their centennial.
Kimo has written five string quartets, five symphonies, and an array of jazz-themed large ensemble works. In 1997 Kimo wrote the music for the Steppenwolf Theatre production “A Streetcar Named Desire” and was musical director for the Goodman Theatre production of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” In 2003, he co-founded the “Lt Dan Band” featuring actor Gary Sinise, performing for the USO worldwide.
He has received numerous awards, including; the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Excellence in the Arts Award: People To People International’s Presidents Award: the Lancaster Symphony’s 38th Recipient - Composers Award for Contributions to American Music, and the League of Black Women’s Black Rose Award.
He is a Fulbright Specialist and Encore Purpose Prize Fellow.
Kimo and his creative partner and wife Carol (also a musician and US Army veteran) live in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, on the Potomac River, and regularly donate their time to support their non-profit organization, the United States Veterans Arts Program (usvap.org)