On Sunday, Jan. 26, Dr. Alfonza H. Williamson, Jr., formerly of Sampson County, was honored by the First Baptist Church of Winston-Salem (Highland Ave.) for his years of service as the church’s pianist and organist. Calling the church “a family away from home,” Williamson shared that his home in Sampson County and the childhood memories he made here are never far from his mind or heart.
“It’s small and very close-knit,” said Williamson of Sampson in a recent interview, recalling how “you know almost everyone you see and if you don’t know them then they know you.”
“It was a good place to grow up,” he added. “There was always lots of support around.”
Williams attended Clinton High School during his freshman and sophomore years where he played trumpet in the Dark Horses’ marching band.
“I didn’t have many extracurricular activities in high school because so much of my time was taken up with music,” he noted, talking of the time he dedicated not only to the marching band but to practicing the piano which he’s been playing since he was in the fifth grade.
“It (piano) came very easy to me. It allowed me to use my hands,” he noted, “which was good because I was your typical ADD kid.”
From early on, Williamson’s natural musical talent took him far beyond the Sampson County line. While still a student a Clinton High, he often traveled to East Carolina University on Saturdays for lessons and music camps.
He ended up leaving Sampson County after the tenth grade to study music on a full academic scholarship at the North Carolina School of the Arts, from which he graduated in 1984 with not only a high school diploma but also with a concentration in piano performance.
After graduation, Williamson continued to pursue music, joining the military where he became a sergeant in the 62nd U.S. Army Band, stationed in Ft. Bliss, Texas. Serving and playing from 1987-1990, he earned a certificate of completion from the Armed Forces School of Music in 1988.
Upon exiting the military, Williamson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from Winston-Salem State University in 1993 and spent a few years teaching elementary music as well as biology, anatomy, and physiology.
However, Williamson soon embarked on a new career — dentistry — which stemmed from an old, enduring interest.
“I was always interested in being a dentist,” he shared, explaining that what he likes most about the profession is that “usually it’s very definite.”
“I can typically find out what is wrong and fix it,” he said. “You don’t have that a lot with general medicine.”
After fulfilling his dental school prerequisites at Winston-Salem State University, Williamson pursued his Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree from Howard University’s College of Dentistry, graduating in 2008.
Since then, he has been a dentist at Wilkesboro Dental Consortium and now currently practices at Smile Starters in Winston-Salem, though he is hoping to open his own practice in the very near future.
As he ends his service as a church pianist and organist and anticipates this new career venture, the married father of three reflected on the many things he’s thankful for.
“It (the appreciation service at the Fist Baptist Church of Winston-Salem) was very nice. I started playing there when I was 19 so many of them (the church members) acted as parents in a way,” he said, noting how the church has always had a widely-varied and unique musical tradition, one that always kept his job at the piano and organ interesting.
“I’m thankful for the people who had an interest and heart for music in Sampson and who pushed me,” he continued, mentioning both his local piano teachers and his parents. “My parents were very old school when it came to practice; you practiced every day regardless. Now, I’m thankful for that because I probably wouldn’t be able to play as well today if they hadn’t pushed that.”
Williamson is the son of Alfonza Williamson, Sr. and Geraldine Williamson of Sampson County.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.