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Young, Gifted & Black: Beyonce's Drummer, Venzella Joy Williams

Drummer Venzella Joy Williams has toured with Beyonce and traces her early start in music to a fascination with rhythm and a foundation in gospel.
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Success doesn't happen by accident. Venzella Joy Williams, better known to family and friends as Joy is a testament to that. “For years and years I dreamed of playing with Beyonce. I would even go as far as in my practice time to study her records so when the time came I would be prepared.”

At 10, Joy’s father bought her her first drum set for Christmas. Yes it’s cliché, but the rest really is history. The Williams household endured what may have felt like hours of unending racket, but that “noise” morphed into rhythmic, soul stirring, head bobbing, foot tapping beats that now captivate worldwide audiences.

It all started with a vision — Joy’s vision. A lot of people can imagine but won’t believe. Joy believed, she had imagination.

Williams recently spoke with NBCBLK about her faith, family, and playing for Queen Bey.

How much work did you have to put in to master your drumming?

There was a point in time I was practicing drums 6-8 hours a day. I would go through different exercises and read books to get new techniques. It didn't happen overnight. I've been playing since I was 10, but I would say professionally I probably started at 18 or 19. So that’s 8 or 9 years of practicing daily for hours and hours.

Did you push yourself or were your parents pushing you?

Both. I lost my mom in 2009, but while she was here she told me to live out my dream, which is music. She also encouraged me to pursue my education; I graduated from Canisius College in 2010 with Bachelors in Criminal Justice and a Minor in Music. I’m very grateful my mom was there to push me in both facets.

Why did you decide to major in Criminal Justice out of all majors?

You know if it had happen where I wasn't able to live out the dream and do music full-time, part of me is interested in law. When I tell people that sometimes they’re like, “What?” [Laughs]

Yeah, you caught me off guard [Laughs].

[Laughs] I never pictured myself running down the street doing shootouts or anything like that but I was more interested in the investigation side of things. I thought about law school.

Could you have pictured yourself here a couple of years ago?

I saw myself here but I didn’t know when it would happen. I just said to myself, it’s going to happen. It might not be tomorrow, it may not be next year, but one day on God’s time it’s going to happen. Part of me saw myself on stage with Beyonce. I just wasn’t sure when it would be.

How did you get the opportunity to play with Beyonce?

I did a show back in 2009 called Making The Band. While there, I actually met Beyonce’s current music director, Derek Dixie. After the show we remained friends and kept in contact so it just worked out that when the opportunity presented itself for the Beyonce job, I was one of the people he called on.

If your mother could see you now, what do you think she would say?

Oh my goodness…she would say, 'Aw, babygirl' [Laughs]. She would just be so excited. I don’t remember exactly what year it was but I do remember I was in college and someone sent me one of their songs to critique and as I was going through it my mom was sitting there and said, 'I can see your dreams coming true.'


Exactly. So when things were slow and I wasn’t getting many calls or if I had any type of doubt, I would just replay those words in my head, “I can see your dreams coming true.” I think my mother would be proud.

So, where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Five years from now I see myself doing a lot more writing and a lot more production. Maybe even artist development.

Nice. Let’s end on this note, you've played for some of the biggest global icons already but…what would be the dream gig for you?

Wow! Like my other dream gig? [Laughs]

Yeah, we’ll call it that since you’re living the dream [Laughs].

This is hard. Lets see, man…you know what…okay…there are a few...I would love love love to play with Daft Punk. I love electronic dance music. I think that would be so much fun. I would also like to play with Tamar Braxton, Brandy, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, and Earth Wind, & Fire. That would be incredible.

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