Ben Williams wanted to play the guitar like Prince, so he signed up for a class in middle school called Strings. The only problem was the class was for orchestral instruments: violin, viola, cello and bass. Williams chose the latter, an instrument he remembered seeing in the Washington, D.C., office of his mom’s boss, Michigan congressman John Conyers, who as a youth studied jazz in college with Betty Carter, Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell. Williams’ studies led him to Conyers’ home state (at Michigan State) before moving on to grad school in New York at Juilliard and winning the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. In addition to his solo career, Williams is the bassist for Pat Metheny’s Unity Band and one of the most sought-after sidemen in jazz. He is still a big fan of Prince.