Native Philadelphian Marvin Mills is organist at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington, Maryland. He is also 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. Since 1995, he has also participated in the Guild’s Pipe Organ Encounters for Youth and Adults, helping all ages to experience various aspects of pipe organ study.
Mr. Mills has performed for numerous chapters of The American Guild of Organists, was a featured recitalist in the Guild’s 1992 National, 1996 Centennial National conventions, and appeared at its 2010 Convention in Washington, DC. 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, The Barns, Wolf Trap Farm Park as well as historic churches in Krakow, Poland. He has appeared as guest artist with numerous choral groups including the Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Washington Bach Consort, the Cathedral Choral Society, the Folger Consort, Fairfax Choral Society, MasterSingers of Wilmington (DE), and 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 organ at All Souls Church, Unitarian. He made his west coast debut in July 1992 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. Concerto appearances include the Pittsburgh Symphony with conductor Isaiah Jackson (Rheinberger g minor), the Johns Hopkins Symphony (Rheinberger F major) and the Peabody Symphony (Rheinberger g minor). 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. PipeDreams (Minnesota Public Radio) featured Mills in a broadcast Music of Color, his Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Recital was webcast.During the inaugural festival of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, Dobson organ Op. 76, in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, he was the first of five recitalists for the Saturday marathon.
For over a decade Mr. Mills has been a featured artist at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival as recitalist, chamber musician and choral conductor - preparing the Festival Chorus for major works such as: Haydn’s Creation, the Requiems of Mozart, Brahms and Verdi, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Handel’s Samson. A prize winning composer, his Four Spirituals for Denyce Graves have been performed throughout the country at colleges and universities by aspiring singers. A setting of a Phyllis Wheatley poem, On Virtue, was commissioned by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for its Poets Corner. He made his theatrical conducting debut with the Washington Savoyards in its production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha in 2010 and is a vocal coach/staff pianist at Morgan State University.