Growing up in Puerto Rico, Bernie Williams discovered his love for baseball and music at roughly the same time, when at the age of eight he fell in love with the sounds of a flamenco guitar his merchant-marine father brought home from Spain, and also felt the same exhilaration when he first picked up a baseball bat.
The young student-athlete quickly excelled in both pursuits, going on to attend the special performance arts school Escuela Libre de Musica at the age of thirteen 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, as well as one of Puerto Rico’s most sought after young baseball prospects. Bernie was signed by the New York Yankees after high school in 1987. After working his way through the farm system, the switch-hitting Williams made his Major League debut with the Yankees in May, 1991.
In addition to performing at concert venues, music festivals, and special events, since the release of Moving Forward, Bernie spent considerable time authoring his first book, Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance, published by Hal Leonard Books and released in July 2011. The book examines the symbiotic relationship between musical artistry and athletic performance through the eyes of a man who has mastered both.
In his 16-year career patrolling centerfield for the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams was a four-time World Series Champion and a five-time All Star. Williams has more post-season RBIs to his credit than any other player in Major League history and his resume also boasts four Gold Glove awards, six American League pennants, the 1996 ALCS MVP award, and the 1998 American League batting title.
Bernie is also among the Yankees all-time leaders in every major batting category, with his performance statistics often standing alongside such legends as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. On May, 24, 2015, the Yankees retired Bernie’s uniform number 51 and a plaque was dedicated and placed in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, cementing his legacy as an all-time Yankee great.
Throughout Williams’ years with the Yankees, his passion for music never waned, and the sound of his guitar would often be heard emanating from 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 when he demonstrated how serious his musical pursuit was with the release of his first album, The Journey Within in 2003. The record featured fusions of jazz, rock and the tropical rhythms of Williams’ Latin 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, Moving Forward debuted as Billboard’s #2 Contemporary Jazz album in the country, and continued to hold that chart position for five straight weeks, 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.
In 2015, he was appointed a Turnaround Arts artist by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the White House, and U.S. Department of Education. Turnaround Arts brings arts education programs and supplies to a group of the lowest-performing elementary and middle schools in the country. These resources help schools improve attendance, parent engagement, student motivation, and academic achievement.
On May 13, 2016, Williams graduated from the Manhattan School of Music, in New York, NY, a prestigious music conservatory in New York, NY, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance.
On June 13, 2019, Bernie became “Dr. Williams”, as he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the State University of New York through SUNY Potsdam and the world- renowned Drake School of Music, considered the “birthplace of music education”. Williams was recognized for his record-setting achievements as a New York Yankee, as well as his artistic accomplishments as a musician and dedication to philanthropy.
Bernie is an active crusader for arts and music education in the lives of all students, and is a national spokesman for the NAMM Foundation’s SupportMusic Coalition, which unites non-profit organizations, schools, and businesses working to assure that music education is supported in communities everywhere, and that all children have the opportunity to learn and grow with music. He has met with leaders of Congress on Capitol Hill for years lobbying to ensure that arts and music become part of a core education in our schools across the United States.
In 2017, Bernie became the national spokesperson for Breathless, an educational awareness campaign for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a mysterious lung disease that took the life of Bernie’s father Bernabe Sr., and still has no cure. He has been touring the country visiting many cities, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball ballparks, and speaking at major medical conferences to spread the word about the disease that affects up to 132,000 people and their families per year.