Chris Beatty Interviews Mark David Williams
Hello Singers! Chris Beatty here (as usual). I decided to sit down with Mark and ask him a few questions recently. Now, I know the answers already, but you’re going to be seeing more of him around, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to know him better. If you have questions for Mark feel free to direct you question to him in the Ask the Vocal Coach form.
Without further adieu, here is my interview with Mark David Williams.
Chris: When did music become an important part of your life? Has it always been there?
Mark: I sang my first solo in the 1st Grade in the all school talent show. I did a solo every year in elementary school. I was just kind of fearless on stage and really enjoyed it. My elementary school teacher noticed the talent and passion I had for music and recommended me for the Metropolitan Boys Choir. I became a member of this touring group and had the privilege to travel this country and Germany between the ages of 12–16. A key component in my vocal development was singing through my voice change. I started at 12 as a Soprano and ended up a low Alto singing all falsetto. It kept me engaged in music through the difficult voice change and I developed a strong falsetto and understanding of the male voice. I was very athletic and into Baseball as a child. I had to give that up to tour and that was a pivotal moment in my life. I can still enjoy sports, but I have enjoyed a career in music and love passing the knowledge I’ve gained along to others.
Chris: After some time at Northwestern University you went to Belmont University, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. How did that happen and how was that experience?
Mark: I was on a musical theater path at Northwestern and one of my closest friends is now a Tony and Grammy winner. I dreamed for years of being on Broadway and winning a Tony! But I also had a calling on my life and a passion to share my faith with others. I felt led to Belmont and the Commercial Voice program where I could study many different styles of music and hone my songwriting and performing skills. Belmont was a truly awesome experience. I had the great privilege of studying jazz, pop, rock, country, Contemporary Christian and still had the opportunity to perform in Musical Theater and Opera. I left there equipped to sing any style and a stronger and better person.
Chris: Tell us a about your singing and performance experience in college and what’s going on now.
Mark: At Belmont we had to put a band together for our recitals. It was a blast working with friends and creating music for a grade! I learned how to lead and direct a band and what personalities and attitudes make up a good band. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my recitals and I was selected to perform in the Gospel Music Showcase and Best of the Best Showcase as well as join friends in the Songwriters Showcase. There was always an opportunity at Belmont. One of the first Showcases I went to at Belmont my first year was a Songwriter’s Showcase. I watched a student named Brad Paisley sing and play some of his songs. Needless to say I was blown away and his success has always been an inspiration to me. Now I am singing and touring in a group called Tenore www.singtenore.com. We are 3 Tenors all trained in various styles and we sing pop, classical, musical theater and more. We fit the genre ‘popera’. We are all men of faith and sing hymns and share what God has done in our lives along as inspire people with well known music of all styles. It’s truly an honor to be a part of the group.
Chris: You’re also an experienced voice teacher and coach. Tell us about that and why it’s motivating and exciting for you.
Mark: I really love watching people ‘get it’. For the past 10 years I have been a worship leader and choir director at a large church in MN. It’s been a journey of training the choir to sing with excellence, but to remember what they are singing and who they are singing for. Music is full of layers and must always be ‘communicated’. We can’t ever get on auto-pilot with music. There is always more to find in a song. I love helping people find the more in a song. What does the song mean to you? What are you communicating? It’s really about giving people the tool belt to hold all of the tools. So many people come for a lesson and have various tools (good pitch, breath support, communication, etc), but not all of them. I want to help them fill their tool belt with the things that are missing in their voice or performance. Some tools are completely natural and some you need to work hard for. I love the challenge and seeing people rise to the challenge.
Chris: What else would you say to worship leaders?
Mark: I love to lead worship and I understand how taxing it can be on a voice. Especially with some churches doing anywhere from 3–8 services a weekend. It’s a different mindset than performing. It can be easy for passion to overtake healthy singing. We can easily get in the moment of a song or feel the presence of the Lord so strong that we are suddenly straining and hurting our voices. There’s also a challenge with blending vocally. I love tackling all of these things in lessons. We have some great products to help with this. But I know specifically for worship leaders that the weekend can be exceptionally draining vocally, physically and spiritually. I’ve lived it, I’ve loved it, and I love to share my experiences and knowledge with others.
Chris: I’ll never forget getting that call from your dad saying you’d been in a horrific head-on collision right here in Nashville and were taken to Vanderbilt. I know there’s a whole book about how you walked through this, but can you capsulate what happened and how it has impacted your life?
Mark: The biggest thing to relate for Vocal Coach readers is that I was given a tracheotomy and had my voice taken away from me for several weeks. Scary! I suffered 20+ fractures, 5 surgeries in 10 days, 64 days in the hospital and months of physical therapy. But the voice was really a scare for me. I later found out that the tracheotomy saved my voice from potential long term damage. You helped me get my voice back and it was very weak as were all muscles in my body from being laid up in the hospital for 64 days. It was a process, but I’m very thankful it came back and is strong. The emotional scars of a crash like that will stay with me forever, but I’ve learned to deal with that and am very thankful to God for how He walked with me through every step of that healing process.
Chris: What’s your role going to be with Vocal Coach?
Mark: I will be a performance and technique coach for online and in person lessons. My passion is helping people communicate a song. I think once you master one or two songs, you look at every other song you sing with new eyes. It’s an amazing tool to have. I will work with those looking for audition preparation or working on a specific performance. I really look forward to doing some workshops with Choirs and worship teams and I’ll be writing blogs on hot topics for today’s singers. You can also count on me to answer some Ask The Vocal Coach questions.
Chris: Finally, tell us a little about your awesome family and your move to Nashville.
Mark: I’ve been married for 13 years to Leah and we have 10 year old twins, Jude and Estella. My wife is a rock star school teacher and the kids are full of personality. We will be living in Murfreesboro and are looking forward to a change in climate and a change in life in TN.