Mark Willey, an organist, is minister of music at the Spencerville, Maryland, Seventh-day Adventist Church, a position he has held since November 1996. Since his move from California to Maryland in 1992, he has assisted and traveled extensively with Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, music groups, including the New England Youth Ensemble and the Columbia Collegiate Chorale.
Willey was born and raised in Southern California. At age fourteen, he started organ lessons with Kimo Smith, inspired by Smith's organ service playing and recitals. Two years later, he attended the Adventist school in France for a year, where he studied French and took organ lessons from Francois Delor at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland.
After graduating from Loma Linda Academy in 1992, Willey traveled to the East Coast to study organ with Donald Sutherland at Peabody Conservatory of Music at John Hopkins University. While a student at Peabody, he was in demand as an organist and harpsichordist, playing with the conservatory's ensembles in performances of many works from the Baroque era to the present.
During this time, he played organ in the Epworth United Methodist church in Cockeysville, Maryland, and began participating as a member of the choir in music activities at the Spencerville SDA church. He began to play as substitute organist when needed and became assistant organist in 1995, playing for the first worship service on Sabbaths.
In 1996 Willey won first prize in the American Guild of Organists DC district competition and placed second in its regional finals in Richmond, Virginia. When he graduated from Peabody in June 1996 with a B.Mus. in organ performance, he was awarded the prestigious Richard Franco Goldman Prize in Performance. That fall, he was hired as Minister of Music at the Spencerville SDA church.
An enthusiastic promoter of classical music and the traditional hymnody of the Christian church, he served as the host of two popular classical music radio programs, Pull Out the Stops and The Music Beyond the Page, that were broadcast on WGTS, WAU's FM station, from 1995 to 1997. These weekly programs, created, researched, and produced by Willey, ended only when the station abandoned its longstanding fine arts identity and adopted a lighter contemporary Christian music format.
In 2002 he enrolled at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied organ with Hans Davidsson. During the next three years, Willey traveled between Rochester and Maryland, attending classes at ESM during the week and fulfilling his duties as minister of music at Spencerville on the weekends and caring for his responsibilities as artistic director of a monthly Evensong Concert Series that he had started in 1996.
While at Eastman, he was a TA for technology and documentation, a position that included videotaping, audio recording, and caring for the organ department's website. He completed an M.Mus. in organ performance at Eastman in 2005.
A thoughtful and skilled writer, Willey also freelances as a music editor and producer. He is founder of a music production company and has worked with Hugh Williams, former organist of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He recently edited and produced an album, Shrine Legacy, with Jeremy Filsell, organist of Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Willey has written extensively about his interests in mountaineering, cycling, and woodworking and has shared his thoughts about music and life in a series of essays at his website, www.markwilley.com. He has released four CDs, three of them through Ethereal Records in New York.
Sources: Columbia Union Visitor, August 2009, 17; Other online sources.