Williams will run the administrative side of the Greensboro-based nonprofit organization that has offered a summer music festival and school at Guilford College for 53 years.
He will replace Stephanie Cordick, who will retire after seven years in the post. He began work part-time on Tuesday and will start full-time on Jan. 1.
"I have big shoes to fill here," Williams said. "There is a 53-year track record of success. My job is to take all of those successes and synthesize and assess, and push forward in new directions or push forward with well-established ideas, just to make them a little stronger."
EMF’s board of directors chose Williams from among more than 60 applicants from around the country and three foreign countries, said Mary Magrinat, who led the board's search committee.
"We really believe that we have a perfect fit in Chris, with his experience and proven talent," board Chairman Fred Starr said.
Each summer, EMF brings about 200 students ages 14 to 23 from around the world — and professional orchestral musicians to teach them — to the Guilford College campus for five weeks of study and concerts.
Williams, 46, brings to EMF a diverse background in music and the arts, including more than 20 years of leadership experience.
His past posts include directing programs from 1994 to 2003 at the National Council for the Traditional Arts, which will bring the National Folk Festival to Greensboro from 2015 to 2017.
At Garth Newel Music Center, Williams oversees a nonprofit program that offers a summer classical chamber music festival, as well as classical, jazz and blues concerts year-round.
It also runs a summer student fellowship program for instrumentalists ages 18 to 26, an amateur chamber music workshop for adults, and the Allegheny Mountain String Project, which provides lessons to the local community.
Gerard Schwarz, the New York-based conductor who serves as EMF music director, praised Williams. Schwarz had met and interviewed Williams over the summer.
“He has a tremendous background running a festival,” Schwarz said from New York. “He is very musically knowledgeable and has a very well-grounded business sense about nonprofits. He is personable, charming, and will be a wonderful match for our wonderful school and festival.”