Mark Hayes Interview

Mark Hayes ( is a special guest of the Brehm Center and Fred Bock Institute of Music worship weekend this Saturday February 11 and Sunday February 12.  Saturday is a full day of discussions, with Mark and others, around the theme of “Forming hearts, creating art” (link: 

We sing a number of Mark Hayes’ compositions; they are challenging and fun!  He is a prolific composer and encourager of church musicians.  He has a heart for bringing different worship styles together and for creating beautiful music for all types of audiences.  Mark was kind enough to participate in an email interview just for the LAC Choir Blog! 

LAC:  I find it interesting that you chose to add a children’s chorus to “Immortal, Invisible”, a piece commissioned for the Festival.  When I was a child, singing this hymn, the words and feelings seemed inaccessible to me, indicating a remote and “adult” God.  Surely, this God was not available to a child.  Could you elaborate a bit on your decision to include children and what you see their role is in this declaration of God’s nature?

Mark:  Ed [director of the Fred Bock Institute of Music] pointed me toward, “Immortal, Invisible” as the commission piece because that hymn fit into his grand design for the festival. He asked me to include children in the piece because they have traditionally been a part of the festival. I’m a big advocate of children learning hymn tunes and texts. Even though the text seems a bit esoteric for kids, I think it could stimulate a great discussion about the nature of God. Some of the adjectives like “immortal” and “invisible” and “light inaccessible” almost sound like qualities of a super power that kids would see in the movies or on TV. You could talk about how God is like or unlike their favorite super power. Since God is both transcendent and personal, you could figure out a way to explain those qualities in kid friendly terms. It’s never too early to teach sound theology to kids in a way that makes sense to them.  [AMEN!]

LAC:  Your mission statement, “to create beautiful music for the world”, is great—succinct, yet gestures toward some of our age’s significant issues with a transcendent God.  It seems as though one of the remaining places for Christian and non-Christian to connect is around the concept of beauty.  How has this mission statement opened, or closed, doors to you and your compositions?

Mark:  I’ve been invited to write for church choirs, community choruses, educational institutions and individuals. I don’t think my mission statement has closed any doors for me. If anything those doors are wide open. I am turning down writing opportunities because I don’t have enough time.  Everyone responds to beauty, which, of course, is quite subjective. I believe I get requests to write because people respect the excellence and creativity I put into all my work. Everything I write doesn’t appeal to everyone, but hopefully they sense the spark of the Spirit that is in my work. I write what I perceive to be beautiful and trust that it will resonate with the world.

LAC:  You have a passion for training church musicians, creating pedagogical materials and working with students.  How do you see the newer keyboard technologies (e.g., MIDI, composing as you go, ability to add rhythm/other sounds to a piece) as changing or expanding the role of a church pianist/accompanist?  Has this changed your approach to training church musicians?

Mark:  I use my Clavinova to input music using Finale music notation software. I play a digital piano at church for a Wednesday service, for which I am the musical director. Beyond that, I don’t use other newer keyboard technologies because I haven’t made learning them a priority. With the busyness of my life, I’ve had to prioritize how I will spend my time. I’ve written some piano collections that use tracks and will be starting another project this spring with accompaniment tracks. I look forward to providing more music for keyboardists who play synths and digital keyboards. I know that many of the new organs that are installed have MIDI sounds in addition to the traditional pipes. What used to be the bastion of traditionalism, the organ console, is now bridging the gap between contemporary and traditional. I applaud that.

LAC:  Where do you sense the Lord Jesus is leading you in the coming years, either as an artist or musician?  How would you describe Jesus’ calling on your life today?

Mark:  I feel a strong leading to continue to write choral, instrumental and vocal music for the church. I am feeling led to create music that bridges the gap between churches that are philosophically diverse, to create music that uses inclusive language for God, that encourages unity of spirit and promotes harmony between all faiths, even those outside Christianity. As a composer I look forward to writing more major works for chorus and orchestra. The next major writing project on my agenda is a Requiem. I will conduct the world premiere at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on May 27, 2013. I had the opportunity to travel to Sydney, Australia, Cape Town, South Africa and Seoul, South Korea within the last 6 months, where I concertized on the piano, presented my choral music, taught private lessons and led workshops.  God is opening many doors for me to teach and share what I know about improvisation, composition and arranging. I look forward to doing more of that and have received invitations to teach internationally. I teach a 10 week course at my church on spiritual principles for living, which has nothing to do with music per se. However I am receiving many opportunities to combine my love and knowledge of music with my passion for teaching spiritual principles that help us live the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

LAC:  I can’t resist a question about Kansas City barbeque—are you a fan of the sweeter sauces from Kansas City?  Or are you a North Carolina tangy sauce fan?  Maybe you have your own recipe?  

Mark:  I have no barbeque recipes of my own. I’m a fan of the sweeter sauces from KC. I’ve traveled enough to taste the North Carolina versions and they are all good, but I’d have to go with my hometown flavors. My favorite among the many sauces and barbeque restaurants here is KC Masterpiece.

 Thank you, Mark Hayes, for a delightful peek into the process of composition and your mission.  May the Lord Bless you and keep you as you share beauty with others!

Here is the link to the Festival on Sunday:

 Do check out these links!

About LakeAvenueChoir

120 voice choir dedicated to bringing glory to God through the musical and visual arts.
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