Change the world


Ulagh Williams has been appointed as the new choir conductor and manager of the Nelson Mandela University’s international award-winning choir.

The Nelson Mandela University Choir’s 25-year legacy of transformation.  Showcasing the unique sounds of South Africa is something I am passionate about, as is working with young talent.  I look forward to working with this diverse and dynamic group of singers and to continue inspiring others through musical performance”, she says.

Ulagh holds a Master’s Degree (cum laude) in Musicology from the former University of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela University) as well as a Performers Licentiate in Piano from the Trinity College of London (LTCL).  

She has received critical acclaim for her research into Eastern Cape jazz culture (in particular Nelson Mandela Bay).  Her contribution to the documentation of local jazz has been published by ILAM (International Library of African Music) at Rhodes University and in various educational and exhibition catalogues such as the SA Jazz Educators journal (SAJE) and the SASMT (South African Society of Music Teachers) magazine.

She was a member of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band and has since directed various ensembles, choirs, Big Bands and orchestras, both at high school and tertiary level. 

In addition to teaching piano and voice, she has performed internationally and directed shows across various genres including jazz, classical music, choral music, popular music and musical theatre. She also manages and produces local performing acts for clients in Turkey, Japan and Spain.

She lectured in jazz and contemporary vocals at Nelson Mandela University and Rhodes University and is currently studying towards a PhD in South African Jazz and Gender studies at Rhodes University.

Ulagh co-founded the production company TwoTone Music with husband Gareth Williams, a lecturer in Music at Mandela University.  Together they have produced the Mandela Bay Symphonic Wind Orchestra, hosted the 2010 Mandela Bay Fest of Sound, and directed the TwoTone Orchestra (2016-), the Madiba Bay Jazz Orchestra (2017) and the busy corporate outfit, the TwoTone Band (2009-).

She has also collaborated with various departments at Mandela University, managing performances featuring staff, students, alumni, community artists and industry professionals.

She co-directed and produced the 40-piece TwoTone Orchestra backing major recording artists Judith Sephuma and Lira for the Divas in Spring Concert, and in 2018 reached the Top 10 of the ESPAfrika Young Legends competition, hosted by the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Ulagh has acted as an ad-hoc member of the production team for The Voice SA's regional rounds, providing audition support and vocal coaching.  She regularly acts as adjudicator at arts festivals and writes music reviews for the media. 

She has also composed original music for various productions and development projects, from stage musicals and corporate jingles to online community music resources.  

Ulagh was commissioned to compose original music in an African idiom, to be used as part of an international project as a free educational resource.  She composed 16 tracks forming part of the KaziBantu project between Nelson Mandela University, the University of Basel (Switzerland) and the drug company Novartis featuring her vocal students.

She has also published her debut novel ‘Dying for a Song’, inspired by her years as a performing artist in the UAE and Japan.

She regularly participates in conferences and colloquiums on the transformation and decolonisation of higher music education and recently presented a paper at Resoundings: Transformative Practices in South African Music Studies, hosted by Mandela University.

Ulagh believes in championing African arts across all disciplines and in showcasing and archiving the creativity and heritage of the Eastern Cape through transformative arts practices that are inclusive, gender-sensitive and in tune with the rapidly evolving arts industries. 


Contact information
Mr Ryan Pillay
Deputy Director: Arts, Culture and Heritage
Tel: 041 504 2508