Bernie Williams

NAMM Foundation Board Position: 

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Bernie Williams discovered his love for baseball and music when at the age of 8 he fell in love with the sounds of a flamenco guitar his merchantmarine father brought home from Spain, and also felt the same exhilaration when he first picked up a baseball bat. Williams credits his mother, who was a public school educator and principal, for insisting that he receive a well-rounded education and that music and sports went hand in hand. As a young student-athlete, Bernie excelled in both pursuits, going on to attend the special performance arts school Escuela Libre de Musica at the age of 13 and becoming one of the most noted young athletes on the island, both as a track and field standout posting record times in the 400 meters and one of Puerto Rico’s most sought-after young baseball prospects. At 17, Williams signed a contract with the New York Yankees and brought his love of music with him—first to Albany for his development in AA and then on to the Bronx and the most famous field in sports when called up to join the Yankees as number 51 in 1991.

Throughout Williams’ years with The Yankees, his passion for music continued and the sound of his guitar playing would often be heard in the clubhouse or during team flights. Whether acoustic or electric, a guitar was a constant presence in the star’s locker or equipment bag, and it was no surprise in 2003 when he demonstrated how serious his musical pursuit was with the release of his first album, “The Journey Within.” The record featured fusions of jazz, rock and the tropical rhythms of Williams’ heritage and was met with both strong critical praise and instant chart success- reaching #3 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. Bernie Williams raised his musical game even further with the release of his second album “Moving Forward” featuring guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, Dave Koz, and an All-Star cast of renowned studio musicians. The album debuted as Billboard’s #2 Contemporary Jazz album in the country, and spawned two consecutive Billboard #1 singles, Go For It, and Ritmo de Otono. The album was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009.

Bernie also co-authored a book in 2011 published by Hal Leonard Books titled, “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance”. Williams earned his Bachelor of Music Performance degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2016.

As a champion for music education, Bernie has performed at the White House in May 2016 with students from his adopted Turnaround Arts school in Bridgeport, CT. He has been a vital part of NAMM’s music education advocacy efforts in Washington DC as part of the NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-in every year since 2011.