A talented musician and songwriter who had the leading role in Apple’s holiday 2014 advertising campaign, alumna Dana Williams is the perfect example of someone who followed their passions to a successful career.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence in 2011, Williams moved back to Los Angeles, a place where she had spent time during her childhood. “I worked in a café for a little while but was also recording my first EP. At the same time I was also writing songs and I had just started playing shows,” she recalled.
Performing was not exactly what Williams pictured she would be doing while she was a student at SLC. She explained, “I concentrated in creative writing mainly in the poetry department, and also music, but I never really performed because I was more interested in being a writer than a performer.”
Ultimately, it was Williams’ sister who acted as the catalyst to start her performing career. “One day my sister said, ‘you have all this music you’re recording, and if you're going to be a musician you're going to have to start performing,’” Williams said. “I was kind of freaked out at first because I am pretty shy and I used to be really shy. My sister was the one who really started booking me shows around LA.”
Once Williams started performing, opportunities were quick to follow. “People would come to my shows and say, ‘why don’t we write a song together’ or ‘why don’t you open a show for me,’” she explained. It was through one of these interactions that Williams landed her role in the Apple commercial. A woman she met knew that Apple was looking for girls who played the guitar; “it was just one of those word of mouth things,” Williams said. That word of mouth interaction led to her auditioning and snagging the role.
Williams’ biggest growth as a musician came from conquering her fear of putting herself out there for the world to critique. One of the main ways she does this is by maintaining an online presence. “I have a lot of friends who are musicians or writers and they think they’re not good enough or their work isn’t ready. That’s kind of what the internet is for. It’s a platform where anyone can put their music out there. As soon as I started doing that, I started getting tons of feedback,” said Williams. “It’s really important to be able to receive constructive criticism […] one of the main ways you can grow as an artist is to put yourself out there, even though it can be scary.”
Because performing was not her aim during college, Williams now regrets not utilizing all of the resources that were available to her: “I never really took advantage of the performing aspect of Sarah Lawrence, like the music program and even the theater program. I think I only performed once in college because I was so shy that I was like, I can’t even be in front of people. But I think for me, confidence is something that comes with time.”
Williams is proof that you can do it, you can get there. Her advice to the aspiring artist at SLC: “Don’t give up, it’s really important to believe in yourself, especially in the arts. You have to believe in what you're doing. If you believe in yourself then other people will see your potential.”