For as long as he can remember, Dr. Tim Willingham (Sacred Voice ’94, M.A. Sacred Music ’99, Curr./Instr. in Music Ed. ’10) has been involved with music—and it all started with handbells. “My parents met in their church handbell choir,” he said.
God used Dr. Willingham’s parents and godly influences to lead him into a rewarding ministry. His mother (now in heaven) used to play vinyl records of classical and sacred music in their home. “My mother was a violist and regularly played music in our home,” he said. “She inspired me to play first for an audience of One; the music would edify believers and open up opportunities to evangelize,” he recalled. His father had purchased two octaves of handbells for their family to ring in church, and from an early age, Dr. Willingham sang in choirs and took piano lessons.
While in an elementary choir, Dr. Willingham and a couple of other students regularly met with their church’s minister of music to learn how to match pitch and enhance their music skills. “That a godly man would care enough to take time out of his busy schedule to work with us guys—this care and compassion made a significant impact on me,” Dr. Willingham shared. “God used this and several other experiences like this to call me to music ministry at 15 years old.”
Not knowing what surrendering fully to God’s will for his life would look like, Dr. Tim Willingham was at first apprehensive. “I thought I would be a music minister in a church,” he said. But while in college, he realized not many churches had a full-time music minister, so he knew he would provide for his family through teaching. After dedicating his life to the Lord, God brought the mission field to Dr. Willingham. “On PCC’s music faculty, I have had the privilege of teaching students from around the world,” he said.
Since 2003, Dr. Willingham has enjoyed making music with skilled musicians, especially since he’s invested in helping them grow in and gain that skill. While he directs handbell and symphonic choirs and teaches Advanced Music Theory and church music classes, he is training the next generation of ministers of music. “My students have gone back home and applied the biblical and musical principles I have taught to their ministries,” he said.
“I have seen many musicians grow through ringing in the handbell program,” shared Dr. Willingham. “Recently, a strong musician before joining the bell choirs mentioned how much she had grown as a musician through her several semesters of ringing the advanced music that our choirs play. It is quite encouraging to know that all the hard work is worth it!”
While his students perfect their craft, Dr. Willingham has opportunities to connect with future students. Visitors drop by during class and get to enjoy a mini concert that the choirs are preparing for local events. “Quite often, incoming students who audition for the bell choirs mention that they watched a rehearsal during an event like College Days, and that influenced them to come to PCC and join the bell choirs,” he said.
Helping his students grow in and accomplish music that previously was beyond their capabilities and the privilege to share that music with the community is what Dr. Willingham enjoys most about his ministry. His handbell choirs have traveled for almost a decade to local churches and other venues, such as a Chick-fil-A, to participate in their Christmas lights program. Many locals enjoy attending these concerts.
“I could not help but love music,” said Dr. Tim Willingham. With influence from his parents and other godly individuals, Dr. Willingham enjoys a rewarding ministry, mentoring the next generation of music ministers. And as he directs the choirs for an audience of One, his music edifies believers and opens doors for evangelism.
Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.