Composer Mark Hayes speaks with Ryan about his belief that all people have a divine presence inside, and how to affirm that when working with musicians. He also discusses the importance of asking the right questions of the music.

FYF 011: A composers viewpoint on bringing out the DIVINE in musicians, with Mark Hayes 



Mark Hayes was raised in a creative musical environment, beginning piano lessons at age ten and developing his improvisational skills at an early age. He earned a B.M. in piano performance, magna cum laude, from Baylor University. During his college years his dream of becoming a composer and arranger was born and nurtured. Now an internationally known writer, conductor, and concert pianist, his career has blossomed into international tours to Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa and Canada.

Hayes’ music is found in the music libraries of churches and universities around the world. His compositions and arrangements are known for their unique American sound, drawing from diverse musical styles such as gospel, jazz, pop, folk and classical. Mr. Hayes’ personal catalog, totaling over 1,000 published works, includes work for solo voice, solo piano, multiple pianos, orchestra, jazz combo, small instrumental ensembles, and choruses of all kinds. He is honored to have his works regularly featured at ACDA, MENC and Chorus America conventions. Hayes is regularly commissioned by churches, universities, children’s choruses, and community choruses to write original choral works. The Grammy Award winning Kansas City Chorale, under the direction of Charles Bruffy, has recorded Hayes’ large works for chorus and orchestra.

Mr. Hayes is also sought after as an orchestrator and music producer. He has recorded 18 solo piano recordings ranging from jazz to classical to gospel and is a favorite arranger of church pianists throughout the world. Mark Hayes is a recurring recipient of the Standard Award from ASCAP, and his album, I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” received the Dove Award, the equivalent to a Grammy in gospel music. In June 2010 Mark released his first CD of original songs titled All Is Well, featuring Kansas City jazz artist, Monique Danielle. In July 2013, Hayes launched his own music publishing company, Holmes Street Publishing.

In 2010 Baylor University Center for Christian Music Studies awarded Mark the Award for Exemplary Leadership in Christian Music. Hayes received the first place composition award in the eighth annual John Ness Beck Foundation competition.

Mark arranged and orchestrated the music for Civil War Voices, which won six awards including “Best Musical” in the 2010 Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York.

Mark first conducted his Te Deum and Magnificat at Carnegie Hall in New York in May 2007, with additional performances in 2008 & 2009. Hayes conducted the Community and Church Honor Choir at 2008 MCDA Convention and led the Community and Church Honor Choir at the SWACDA Regional Convention in 2010 featuring his Gloria. He conducted the world premiere of his work for chorus, orchestra and narrator, The American Spirit, at Lincoln Center in May 2011 and the world premiere of his Requiem at Lincoln Center May 27, 2013. In April 2014 Hayes conducted the award-winning choruses and orchestra of St. Paul’s Co-educational College and Primary School in Hong Kong on their international tour to Singapore and conducted his setting of The Gettysburg Address at Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC in August 2014. In October 2014 Hayes conducted his Requiem at St. Ignatius Basilica in Rome, Italy as part of The Festival Pro Musica E Arte Sacra, sponsored by the Vatican.  A full-length recording of his Requiem was released in February 2015. He will return to Avery Fisher Hall in New York to conduct his Requiem May 25, 2015.

Whether concertizing on the other side of the globe or composing at his home in Kansas City, Missouri, Mark is blessed to live out his mission “to create beautiful music for the world”.

The moment you knew you’d dedicate your life to music

At Baylor, halfway through his junior year, he was wondering if he should really be a concert pianist. He started arranging for a college ensemble, and working for Word music. At that point, he was bit by the composing arranging bug and the rest is history!

A little background…When Mark was 10, he started taking piano. He grew up in the church, and was in awe of the gospel style.  Hazel Burke was his first piano teacher. She taught him to improvise, which he later found to be one of his greatest gifts.

Worst musical moment

In 2009, the very first time Mark conducted at Carnegie Hall, he had really mentally prepared for this moment. Within ten minutes on stage, the strings make a very slight mistake. No one likely heard it but him. Then the sopranos missed the cue. And again, most people probably had no idea. Meanwhile Mark was having an internal dialogue. He caught himself in the act, and chose to make it a great performance, so he just let go and stayed in the moment!

The proudest musical moment

Mark’s proudest moment happened most recently, at Saint Ignatius Basilica in Rome, conducting his Requiem after lots of challenges in rehearsal and days of tiredness. The final performance felt transcendent, because he was in an amazing space, with an Italian orchestra, and a diverse choir. He was forced to live in the moment, and finally gave a stunning performance.

Your “Forte”

Mark discussed multiple fortes…

  • Understanding the nature and art of the music.
  • Having a clear opinion.
  • Realizing limitations and benchmarks.
  • Mark is also very affirming and complimentary.
  • Mark is a believer that there is a divine presence in everyone and feels he’s able to bring that out with choirs he works with.

Most excited about right now

Mark is writing a 12-15 minute work for Saint Paul’s co-educational college in Hong Kong.

Mark is conducting his Requiem at Lincoln Center in May 25, 2015.

Advice for your younger self

Slow down. Less is more.

What makes a outstanding composer?

Willingness to fail. The ability to write something, and not like it, but go back and make it better the next morning. Being open to stimuli the inspire you to write music.

Book Discussed

The Science of Mind: The Complete Edition

Music Discussed

This Moment, by Mark Hayes


Mark Hayes Productions

Mark Hayes Fan Group