Gary Venden, a singer, pianist and string player, is both a pastor and musician in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He and his wife Marilynn (Jones), a singer, perform often as part of their ministry in music.
Gary was born in Saginaw, Michigan, the younger of two children born to Leonard and Shirley Huenergardt Venden. His father was a pastor and music teacher and his mother, a talented mallet keyboard performer who also held a degree in home economics. Both parents were musical, and Gary as well as his sister, Lenette, started piano lessons at age three with their father and then studied mallet keyboard instruments with their mother.
Starting in the early 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, the Vendens and their two children performed as the Venden Family Keyboard Quartet, with Leonard playing organ, Shirley playing vibraharp and marimba, Lenette playing piano and marimba, and Gary playing piano. Both of the children sang, and the family also played as a handbell choir. They released two records, The Green Cathedral in 1968 and Christmas Bells in 1969, through Chapel Records, and provided special music during the 1970 General Conference Session held in Atlantic City.
The Vendens moved frequently with the result that Gary attended Auburn, Sandia View, and Orangewood academies before graduating from the latter in 1974. He attended Pacific Union College, where he completed a theology degree with a minor in piano in 1979. In March of that year, he married Marilynn Jones, an alto singer whose parents were well known music evangelists in the Adventist church who had made several Chapel Records in the 1960s and 1970s.
After serving as an intern pastor at Newbury Park Academy in California, for a year, the Vendens spent the next nine years in evangelism, working with the Kenneth Cox Team for a year-and-a-half; Lyle Pollett for two years in the Carolina Conference; and then in the Northern California Conference for six years, first with Pollett and then on their own. For the next seven years, Gary pastored the Ross Valley SDA Church in Fairfax, California, and in 1997 became pastor of the Glendale SDA Church in Phoenix, Arizona, a position he presently holds.
While still in college, Venden spent a year traveling as a pianist for Sound of Care, a youth evangelism group in the Pacific Union Conference. While on the campus, he played string bass in the Howell Mountain Boys blue grass group for three years and also played piano for two years for a singing group led by William Truby, III.
Beginning in 1980, he served as a keyboardist, guitarist, and bandleader of the worship band for the Adults II program at the Redwood Camp Meeting in the Northern California SDA Conference. In 1997 he started doing the same at the Arizona camp meeting in Prescott while also continuing at Redwood. He still provides that service at both camp meetings.
In 1997, when he became pastor at Glendale, he also started a resident group called the Mosaic Worship Band. More recently, the Vendens and musicians drawn from their local worship band and others who have participated in the Arizona and California camp meeting bands jointly produced CDs in 2006 and 2008, titled Mosaic and Mosaic 2. Both feature Contemporary Christian music, with Marilynn as lead singer, and a creative mix of a variety of instruments.
Since their marriage in 1979, Marilynn has worked with Gary in evangelism as well as assisting him in his ministry in the churches he has served. She presently is chaplain with Hospice of the Valley, a position she has held since 2003.
Sources: Information provided by Gary Venden, May 2011; Lake Union Herald, 4 April 1967, 9; North Pacific Union Gleaner, 18 May 1970, 3;The Review and Herald, 16 June 1970, 9 and 18 June 1970, 12; Pacific Union Recorder, 16 July 1970, 5; The Modesto Bee, 31 July 1970, B-3; Mosaic CD liner, 2006; personal knowledge.
The Green Cathedral Leonard Venden Family Keyboard Quartet, Chapel Records #S-146 (1968)
Christmas Bells Leonard Venden Family, handbells with other instruments (1969)
Thatís Worth Everything Sound of Care Gospel Singing Group, Gary Venden, pianist, Chapel Records #S5274 (1975)
The Ultimate Show and other Parables, Keith Knoche, Gary Venden, Piano, Guitar, and Bass, Chapel/Bridge Records #2284 (1976)
Stained Glass Contemporary Christian, Gary & Marilynn Venden and Greg Jones, Chapel/Bridge Records #S2300 (1981) Recorded at Heavenly Studio, Sacramento, CA
Quiet Galilean Nights Contemporary Christian, Gary & Marilynn Venden, Chapel/Bridge Records #S2313 (1983) Recorded at Sundown Sound, Greenville, SC
Into the Woods Hymn arrangements, Gary Venden, piano, Chapel Records #S5462 (1983) Recorded at Sundown Sound, Greenville, SC
Quiet Time Contemporary Christian, Gary & Marilynn Venden, Chapel Records #5545 (1988) Self-recorded at Lodi, CA
Northstar Parable Songs Contemporary Christian, Gary Venden, Chapel/Bridge Records #2351 (1988) Self-recorded at Lodi, CA
Mosaic Contemporary Christian, Gary & Marilynn Venden with Mosaic Worship Band, Distributed by Chapel/Bridge Records (2006) Recorded at Full-Clip Audio, Phoenix, AZ
Mosaic 2 Contemporary Christian, Gary & Marilynn Venden with Mosaic Worship Band, Distributed by Chapel/Bridge Records (2008) Recorded at Full-Clip Audio, Phoenix, AZ