Renowned guitarist Cal Williams Jr on Adelaide’s creative industries

As a UNESCO City of Music, Adelaide has a long history of nurturing some of the world’s greatest talents. Adelaide local, Cal Williams Jr, is a prime example of a home-grown creative returning to the fold. 

He has lived abroad extensively and graced the globe with his hypnotic blues signature strumming. Cal has deservedly accumulated a slew of awards including ARBA Best Blues Soloist Award and ‘Best Australian Blues Album’ by Blues Underground, USA, while his masterful finger picking has shared the company of music greats including Jeff Lang and Billy Bragg.

At a time when he was living in Brittany, France, Cal developed his signature guitar method which formed the springboard for future entrepreneurial ventures. After six years of performing at folk festivals around Europe, he returned back to Adelaide to write the guitar book series ‘The Guitar Toolbox’, which was picked up by American music book company Mel Bay USA in 2014 for international publication and provides the backbone of Gilbert-street based music school ‘The Guitar Academy’.

The Guitar Academy, like many businesses, had to pivot and adapt to the restrictions that came as a result of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the school employed nine music teachers who taught over 150 students. Lessons as they knew it came to a halt in March 2020. Digital learning and communication platforms played a fundamental role in students being able to continue their musical educations from their own homes.

“The technique of online learning was made even easier by the fact that The Guitar Academy is built upon a well-structured learning method through the books I have written so the student also had physical resources by their side of the screen,” said Cal.

Cal used the process of online teaching to assess and improve the teaching course and expand the syllabus as well as offer free learning resources digitally. Students have slowly started returning to in-person lessons as of July and the new resources developed are continually being used. The COVID-19 down time also produced the opportunity to develop a website, in a collaboration with the Music Development Office of SA, to provide teacher resources. The website seeks to build an online music teacher community that can access The Online Guitar Academy’s music tuition books and online resources to help other guitar, ukulele, banjo and mandolin teachers develop their own lesson plans and follow a structured teaching syllabus.

“Adelaide is an amazing place for creative people as there is a real sense of community in the arts and everyone helps each other to achieve their creative goals.”

While creative industries have felt the full force of COVID-19 with live performance cancellations, Cal believes that Adelaide’s resilient music scene will continue to forge ahead with the support of the community. Music lovers have rallied together to create online streaming gigs for musicians and develop new avenues for artists to continue their connection with their craft and audiences.

“I have just recently been performing for the Adelaide Council's Winter Sounds initiative that brings performers and wood fires to various locations around the city which has been amazing. In the period of lock-down, I think music has become even more important in helping people connect with each other and keep their spirits up during these uncertain times.”

Cal Williams Jr will be performing at Street Beats and Eats on Saturday, 14 November 2020, at the Lord Melbourne from 6:00 pm.