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stage bound
Story By Mike Overall, Photo submitted

Emma Williams is a singular and precocious teenager whose future may find her aglitter with the stardust that showers our most exceptional performing artists.
“I rely on performing arts the way some people do on painting,” Emma said. “I need the arts as a way of self-expression.”


That “need” for the arts is a deep and abiding passion for the youngster from Chicago, whose sweet demeanor, captivating nature, mature poise and remarkable talents have delighted audiences who have seen and heard her perform at her grandfather’s church in Jonesboro.


Emma is the daughter of Jonesboro native Dr. Ben Williams, a lawyer/historian who teaches American history at DePaul University in Chicago, and Dr. Tracey Williams, a veterinarian at Midwest Animal Hospital. Her paternal grandparents are a well-known and respected Jonesboro couple, Emil Williams, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church and now pastor at Magnolia Road Baptist Church, and his wife, Marianne. Her maternal grandparents are Ray and Phyllis Oblinger of North Little Rock.


A member since 2007 of the world-renowned Chicago Children’s Choir, which features the voices of more than 3,000 singers, Emma began performing with the ensemble at the Allegro level. Her voice and performance talents developed so rapidly that she soon matriculated to the choir’s Vivace performance level.

And come this spring, the young artist has been selected to audition for the prestigious Concert Choir, whose singers represent the famous choir’s crème de la crème of youthful vocal artistry.


“The choir expects perfection and nothing less,” she said. “I tour with the group and every year, select singers are chosen for out-of-state trips.... But most important of all, I get to sing.... The choir is amazing ... and has taught me everything I know about music.”


Another honor was recently bestowed on Emma when the Chicago School for the Arts auditioned and invited her to join its musical theater program. Although she wanted to accept, the school is so far from her residence that it would have required a long commute so her parents opted for an institution closer to home, Morgan Park Academy. The school is a private institution with a stellar reputation and an arts program, which should provide Emma with her favorite cup of artistic tea.


“Every actor brings something different to a role, so it becomes self-expression,” Emma, already a veteran of many musical theater productions, said in an interview. “That’s why I do musical theater. This way, I can combine all the performing arts, dancing, singing and acting.”


The young actress/singer/all-around performer has a younger brother, 7-year-old Henry, whose current interests include astronomy, archeology and paleontology.