Realizing he wasn't on the same level as John Browning or Van Cliburn, fellow Julliard students doesn't means he was lazy in his practicing habits.
Actually, Donald Williams recently remembered how his older brother would be always late for the meals as he wouldn't leave the piano mid way his exercises.
He was good enough to be a student of the most sought after piano pedagoge in the US, Rhosina Levine.
His interest in arranging and composing started in his teens, even though he still had an eye on a concert pianist carreer. That's what changed while at Julliard.
Yet, when we returned to LA he become one of the two top studio pianists in town, the other being Jimmy Rowells.
There is this story of Johnny Mandel working on a recording with a singer I can't recall the name right now, and for the final session, Rowells wasn't available, so they called for young Williams, who Mandel described to the singer, as a more classical oriented pianist.
Marty Paich also praised Williams for his hability to play exclently both classical and jazz music.
I recall a story, though I have no real details, that he got fed up with that work, during the West Side Story sessions, and from then on he concentrated more as a studio conductor and in composing.