Marvin Mills, a native of Philadelphia, is organist at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington, Maryland. He has been music director of the acclaimed National Spiritual Ensemble, and guest artist with the Ritz Chamber Players, based in Jacksonville, Florida. Previous positions include Associate Minister of Music at National City Christian Church, Director of Music at All Souls Church, Unitarian, and University Organist at Howard University, all in Washington, DC.
Active with the District of Columbia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists since 1984, he has served as dean (1990-1992), board member, Foundation trustee, Regional Convention secretary, and chairman for regional and chapter competitions, exemplifying his commitment to the mission of the Guild and his belief in the expressive power of the organ as an instrument for use in worship and concert. He has also participated in the Guild’s Pipe Organ Encounters for Youth and Adults as teacher, clinician and recitalist, helping all ages to experience various aspects of pipe organ study.
Mr. Mills has performed for numerous chapters of The American Guild of Organists and been a featured recitalist at several of its national conventions. He opened the 1989 Wendell P. Whalum Concert Series at Morehouse College, performing for the entire student body. Presented in recital by the Washington National Cathedral in observance of Black History Month 1989, he was invited back for its 1995 and 2002 Summer Festival Series.
As clinician, he has given workshops for the Unitarian Universalists Musician’s Network, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, Association of Disciples Musicians, and at the regional and chapter levels of the American Guild of Organists spanning topics from the Negro Spiritual and organ music of Black Composers, to hymn playing, organ accompaniment and organ repertoire. He participated in a day long seminar on the Sights and Sounds of the Pipe Organ sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, focusing on the art of organ transcription using Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as a model.
He has performed throughout the United States in such places as The Academy of Music, Philadelphia, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and The Barns-Wolf Trap Farm Park in addition to colleges and universities. He has appeared as guest artist with numerous choral groups including the Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Washington Bach Consort, the Cathedral Choral Society, Fairfax Choral Society, MasterSingers of Wilmington (DE), and the Eastern Michigan University Chamber Choir. In the spring of 1992 Mr. Mills performed the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in a weekly series of fourteen programs on the 96 rank Rieger (Austria) organ at All Souls Church, Unitarian. He made his west coast debut at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion International Organ Summer Concert Series in Balboa Park, San Diego and his New York City recital debut in July 1993 at the Riverside Church, returning in 2003 and 2011. Concerto appearances include the Pittsburgh Symphony with conductor Isaiah Jackson, the Johns Hopkins Symphony and the Peabody Symphony. He has also performed with the Jacksonville Symphony in concertos by Handel, Rheinberger and Jongen as well as Hindemith’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra. During the inaugural festival of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, (built by Dobson Organ Builders, Op. 76), in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center, he was the first of five recitalists for the Saturday marathon.
Mr. Mills has been a featured artist at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival as keyboard artist (harpsichord/piano/organ), chamber musician and choral conductor – preparing the Festival Chorus for major works such as: Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Handel’s Samson and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and many Bach cantatas. Active as a vocal coach/accompanist, he has worked with numerous singers and instrumentalists throughout the mid-Atlantic region. He can be heard as arranger and accompanist on a disc of spirituals with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, Angels Watching Over Me. His song for high voice and piano, On Virture, was commissioned by the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for its Poets Corner celebrating 18th century poet Phyllis Wheatley. In February 2010 he made his theatrical conducting debut with the Washington Savoyards in its production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha.