- M.M., Music Composition, California State University, Long Beach
- B.M. Music Composition, California State University, Northridge
- Kodály Method certification from OAKE, ASCI and C-BEST certification
Adjunct Professor, Music Composition
A dynamic performer, composer, arranger and orchestrator, Mr. Wills currently teaches music theory-related courses such as ear training, composition, improvisation, counterpoint, form and analysis, arranging, orchestration, keyboard skills, music technology and appreciation courses, in addition to private lessons. He frequently accompanies ensembles such as the Biola Chorale, Women's Chorus and Vocal Jazz, and has performed as a pianist collaborating with visiting artists for Music at Noon. He has delivered presentations at Biola arts symposia and hosted Composers Guild forums and concerts.
In his teaching, Mr. Wills reveals the underlying principles and patterns of design that serve as threads of continuity in musical works stretching across genres and historical epochs; thus, revealing the relevance of studies in classical theory to modern composition. Mr. Wills loves to inspire a healthy aspiration for excellence and infuse a passion for learning in his students, and has always desired to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in their intended careers and ministries.
Education & Career
While working on his Masters degree, Mr. Wills garnered several national and Hollywood awards in composition, including the Kenneth Davenport National Competition for Orchestral Works, for a work entitled “Fingerprints: an Orchestral Odyssey”, a kind of modern program music the conveys the miracle and wonder of creation—the “fingerprint” of divine, intelligent design in the universe. The work was premiered by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic in several venues including the Bardavon Opera House, reviewed in newspapers such as the Times-Herald and aired on radio stations in New York. As the award recipient, he served as composer-in-residence with SUNY New Paltz, delivering lectures, teaching masterclasses and conducting workshops. Additional awards include twice winning the Irwin Kostal Memorial Award for Composition, presented at the Golden Score Awards in Beverly Hills with Hollywood film composers John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Dave Grusin, Randy Newman and Thomas Newman.
Mr. Wills developed relationships with several student directors at USC such as Jason Russell of Invisible Children (Kony 2012), and subsequently scored a number of short films, thesis films, documentaries, industrials, family and animated films, as well as music for HCJB World Radio broadcasts, hosted by Eric Skattebo.
Mr. Wills arranged and orchestrated for composer, guitarist and “papa of the wah-wah” Del Casher, in particular the NBC Nighty News Theme for MSNBC. One of Wills' arrangements, the Americana Suite, was commissioned and premiered by the Capistrano Valley Symphony, and also performed by the Glendale Symphony at Alex Theatre.
For the Atlanta, Houston and Dallas Symphonies, Mr. Wills arranged songs and film score material (e.g., A Very Merry Pops) for use in a number of concerts, including one featuring Broadway star Ashley Brown (who originated the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway).
Mr. Wills arranged for orchestra several Simon and Garfunkel songs for a tribute show series entitled The Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel with vocalists A.J. Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle, conducted by maestro Michael Krajewski, which is presenting on tour around the country, and recently recorded and broadcast on Houston Public Radio.
Under contract for Lillenas Publishing, Wills was hired as an arranger of choral and instrumental music. His first project was a setting of Allie LaPoint's “He Sends the Snow”, which was recorded in Nashville and released in June 2014. For over a decade, Mr. Wills has written symphonic film score arrangements for the Nights of Music from Film at Haugh Performing Arts Center. He also collaborated with artists such as Abraham Laboriel, Justo Almario, Alex Acuna, Chris Walden, Marsha Skidmore, Amick Byram, and David Bowie tribute artist David Brighton.
As a keyboardist, Mr. Wills continues to perform for concerts, musicals, revues and recording sessions. He performed on the soundtrack for Sam Raimi's blockbuster film Spider-Man 2 (Columbia Pictures), providing keyboard tracks for composer/singer Vic Mizzy (of “Addams Family” and “Green Acres” fame) and Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine, as well as for various films and commercials. He has also performed on tour with Lorna Luft presenting a tribute to her mother Judy Garland called Songs My Mother Taught Me, Dale Kristien and other cast members from the Los Angeles productions of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, James Burton (guitarist for Elvis Presley), Gospel artists Lillie Knauls and Buddy Greene, the twin sons of Ricky Nelson (Matthew and Gunner, “Ricky Nelson Remembered”), Ingrid Chun (violinist with the LA Philharmonic), Marsha Skidmore and David Owens of the Tommy Coomes band (Franklin Graham Crusades), KSFH 95.9 FM “The Fish” host Lauren Kitchens, Word of Truth host Alex Montoya of KTLW 88.9 FM, trombonist Ilan Morgenstern of San Antonio Symphony, harpist Greg Buchanan, Stephen Newby of Promise Keepers, Latin jazz guitarist Marcus Gerakos of ensemble Escenas opening for Acoustic Alchemy at the Coach House, Word Records artist Frank Boggs, and many more.
For about a decade, Mr. Wills has performed as keyboardist and vocalist for John Denver Tribute Concerts with singer/songwriter Jim Curry at venues such as the Red Rocks amphitheatre in Colorado and Verizon Wireless amphitheater in Irvine, as well as in Las Vegas, Aspen, and dozens of symphonies all over the country, including the Pacific Symphony (at Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre), Kansas City, Greensboro, Toledo, Santa Rosa, Phoenix, Cincinnati, San Antonio, Houston, Wichita, Jacksonville, Grand Rapids, Knoxville, Spokane, Utah, Indianapolis, Akron and Detroit symphonies, Orlando and Dayton Philharmonic orchestras, as well as most of the original members and contributing songwriters of John Denver's band.
Mr. Wills has frequently performed for musicals with Musical Theatre West and 3D Theatricals at venues such as the Candelight Pavilion, Carpenter Center, Orange County Pavilion for the Arts, and the Haugh and Redondo Beach Performing Arts Centers. Some of these musicals include Returning to Sin City (Las Vegas tribute to the Rat Pack), I Left My Heart (salute to Tony Bennett), Legally Blonde: The Musical, Shrek: The Musical, Ragtime, All Shook Up, Peter Pan, Spelling Bee, Chicago and more.
Faith in Action
As a practitioner of music for over 30 years—in the roles of composer, arranger, orchestrator, performer (piano and vocals), music minister and instructor—Mr. Wills can attest to both the potency of influence and practical usefulness of music, whether instrumental absolute or program music, or music with lyrics or libretto.
From his teenage years as a young believer to the present day, Mr. Wills always held that the highest calling of music is in the service of worship. For this reason, Mr. Wills has been involved in music ministry as staff pianist for the Celebration Choir and Orchestra at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton for the last 13 years, working with Michael Cork and Mike Erre. Before this, he served as pianist and director of music for Church on Brady / Mosaic for 16 years, partnering with pastor Erwin McManus to prepare the services.
Mr. Wills labels the atmosphere at Biola University as one of “spiritual strength, camaraderie, caring and nurture.” He remarks, “Biola's resolutely-determined and clearly-articulated focus on Biblical thinking in scholarship and service, and commitment to the values of truth, transformation and testimony, are qualities that I have always admired.” Noting the quality of his fellow faculty members, he says, “The Conservatory music faculty is comprised of consummate professionals, leaders in their respective fields. Moreover, they are dedicated to each student's spiritual growth and character, and academic success. Love for one's students should be the primary criterion for a university professor—and love is what drives Biola faculty.”
Christopher J. Wills professional website:
Performance of “Eagles and Horses” with Jim Curry and the Greensboro Symphony:
Performance of theme by Vic Mizzy for Sam Raimi film “Spider-Man 2” and album “Songs for the Jogging Crowd”:
Arrangements for Lillenas Publishing:
HCJB World Radio program broadcasts with Eric Skattebo:
Kenneth Davenport Competition for Orchestral Works: