Principal Guest Conductor
Rev. Dr. (Doniel) Mark Wilson was born the youngest of six children in 1960, to the proud parentage of a single mother, from whom he learned strong faith in God to dream beyond life’s apparent limitations.
His many graduate degrees are in sociology, philosophy and divinity, but his musical education has been considerable. He is fluent in German, and has spent his time lecturing in the US, Havana, Hamburg, and Managua, Nicaragua.
The origins of his gospel art and music came from his family, particularly from the faith and southern musical heritage of his mother, Mrs. Bettie Cheeks-Austin and grandmother, Amelia Jackson.
He writes: "They were strong spiritual women, from Canton, Mississippi, whose hymns, moans, chants and gospel songs inspired them to face many social barriers, personal struggles and forms of racial oppression in the US and segregated south. They were always singing, as they trusted God to bring them through."
He learned to play gospel piano and organ under African American gospel musicians, like Sharon Hogg, Rev. Elzie Ware and Rev. John McBride of the Northern California Gospel Music Workshop of America, was further mentored by David Morales, Artistic Director of Cantare Con Vivo, who encouraged him to take vocal training with Alice Taylor of the Oakland Opera Company. As an undergraduate at Howard University, he participated in the University Concert Choir, Choir, and Collegium Ensemble.
Finding his studies in Philosophy, Classics and German to intense to perform regularly with the Howard University Gospel Choir, he started a smaller chorus for Howard students: The Howard University Gospel Ensemble, which performed at local congregations in Washington, D.C. While working on his Master of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, Wilson continued his gospel choir activities in Boston, proactively founding and directing the Harvard Divinity School Jubilee Quintet and the People Baptist Church Chorale. Following seminary education, he then moved to Detroit, Michigan where he served as Youth and Neighbourhood Minister at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, simultaneously directing the churches 200 voice Young Adult Choir and organizing hip hop gospel rap crews. He moved back to the Bay Area in 1992, and following his twelve year pastorate of Berkeley's McGee Avenue Baptist Church, he took a teaching at the Pacific School of Religion. In 2000 he completed his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Michigan where he organised the University of Michigan's Gospel Choir in 1988. He has been a lecturer in the in the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology since 2003 and is a former Professor of Congregational Leadership at the Pacific School of Religion. He is now the Director of the UC Berkeley Gospel Chorus.
He is currently working to spread the art of gospel music in the global community; through his work with the Soul Sounds Choir in Sri Lanka, which he first conducted in January 2008, and graciously accepted the title of Principal Guest Conductor of, in January 2009.