Bill Brown, his wife Jacy and their two boys Emmett and Isaiah at the YMCA in Hoquiam. (Photo by Rick Moyer)
You may have recently seen Bill Brown lending his piano chops to the Toons concert streamed by Grays Harbor College’s Bishop Center for the Performing Arts. Or you may know him as the worship leader at Immanuel Baptist Church in Hoquiam. Perhaps you know him in another capacity—pastor, friend, teacher or family man. But if you know him at all, surely you know that the 41-year-old is a pianist extraordinaire.

“Bill is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever played with, and yet still so humble,” says singer/songwriter Ericka Corban. “He is fun to work with and has a genuine heart and love for people.”

Bill grew up in Grays Harbor, attending Aberdeen schools, then moved away and returned. His story begins at a crossroad where church and music intersect, as they often do. He grew up hearing and playing hymns and classical music. The only secular music he says he really listened to was The Beatles.

It was in second grade, while attending Immanuel, that his mother signed him up for piano lessons with Judy Reynvaan who has taught, shaped and inspired a generation of Harbor pianists (including Bill’s uncle Lew, who played about town, and musical theater pianist Alex Eddy). Bill Brown, his wife Jacy and their two boys Emmett and Isaiah at the YMCA in Hoquiam. (Photo by Rick Moyer)

Heart and Soul

In 1998, after high school, Bill attended the University of Southern California where he studied, not music, but international relations. It was there he discovered he didn’t like politics. “I was in a class about foreign relations with China during the year of the Al Gore versus George W. Bush presidential race,” Bill says. Watching his classmates engage in an animated discussion. “It was then that I knew that I didn’t care.”

However, during his senior year at USC, he studied abroad in Hong Kong. There he discovered someone he was passionate about: Jesus. “I had a real option to grow in my faith,” he says. “God seemed to ask, ‘Is your life about you or me?’ ”

Bill Brown Teaching in Aberdeen
Bill teaches in his Aberdeen studio on Market Street. (Courtesy of Bill Brown)
After teaching Spanish for a year at Hoquiam High School, Bill decided to attend Western Seminary in Portland. There, “when passionate discussions happened in my theology class I did care.”

He earned his master’s in theology and lived in Oregon from 2003 to 2015. It was there that he met Jacy, now his wife of 13 years. They have two boys, Emmett and Isaiah. In 2015 Bill returned to the Harbor when the church of his youth called him to be their associate pastor to lead worship. While he wears a lot of different hats at Immanuel, worship leading is the most visible one.

Play me a song, I’m the piano man

With 11 years of lessons under his belt, Bill still practices piano two hours nearly every day. And it shows.

“Bill’s skill level is straight out of heaven and his ability to just sit in and play is priceless,” says Wil Russoul, local musician and downtown leader. “I can recall a performance at the Bishop Center where another act was late and I asked Bill to go out on stage and wow them. He did!” “He’s a blessing to our community and his teaching piano to countless others no doubt will have a large beautiful impact to our Grays Harbor music world,” Wil says.

Bill notes that he almost quit piano in middle school. He says his mom outsmarted him though. She cited the years of lessons invested in him and told him he had to continue until his senior year in high school, then, if he still wanted, he could quit. As if his mom could see the future, around his junior year he fell in love with tickling the ivories. By then music – especially church music – had become a deeply entrenched part of him. Since then he not only plays for Immanuel, but has played piano bars in the Olympia area, a local coffeehouse gig in Aberdeen, other local events and has even lent his talents to playing in the pit for the 7th Street Kids production of “Matilda” – something he would love to do again.

Bill now splits his time between Immanuel Baptist in Hoquiam and teaching at his Grays Harbor Piano Academy, 228 W. Market St., in Aberdeen, which he founded in September of 2019. “Every single day I go into my studio I love it!” In the beginning he says, “I took a couple of students, now I have 50!” “I don’t want to see parents in the position (my parents were in), fighting their kids over practice. I’m not just trying to teach kids music – I want to help kids love music.”

“The conversation is the same. It’s like scripted. I hear it over and over. People tell me, ‘I used to play.’ And I say, ‘Oh, what happened?’ And they say, ‘Well, in junior high …’ And I ask, ‘Did you ever pick it up again?’ And they say, ‘No, and it’s the biggest mistake of my life.’”

Bill and fellow worship musicians
Bill and fellow worship musicians play for a live-stream broadcast from Immanuel Baptist Church, in Hoquiam. (Photo by Carolyn Greer)

Don’t Shoot Me, I’m (not) Only the Piano Player

“I’m a pretty big nerd at heart,” says Bill. “I collect film scores and soundtracks and trading cards.”

Movie Music: John Williams is, hands down, Bill’s favorite composer. He says, “I relive movies I’ve enjoyed through the soundtrack. I am always amazed at how the music alone can recreate the film in my mind.” His first movie memory is from when he was four years old watching “Return of the Jedi” with his dad. He’s loved Star Wars ever since.

Disney: A child of the 80s, he grew up watching the Disney Channel, visiting Disneyland several times with his family, and loving Disney’s animated features of the 90s (including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” and “Aladdin”).

“During my days at USC you could get an annual Disney park pass for $200 without blackout dates.” He says that for him and his classmates, “it was possibly an unhealthy escape from the pressures of life. We called it going to ‘the goodness.’”

Gospel: At USC Bill got into urban/black gospel music. He joined the school’s gospel choir and he says, “an entire other universe was opened up to me. My playing was very affected by that –  how I play modern music, even hymns.”

Bill and fellow worship musicians play for a live-stream broadcast from Immanuel Baptist Church, in Hoquiam. (Photo by Carolyn Greer)

While urban/black gospel is a style all its own, it has developed over time from blues and jazz influences – the true American music – with its roots in island cultures and the spirituals of African-Americans. It has not only affected pop music but also the music of the Church.

Bill’s eclectic influences and interests are reflected in his playful yet masterful music. His journeys and life experiences have taught him three things, he says.

One, “I’m so glad to be back here in Grays Harbor. It’s just the greatest blessing.”

Two, “Jesus is very real.”

And, three, “Music brings joy, andI like that.”

Bill Brown can be reached at Grays Harbor Piano Academy, 228 W. Market St. in Aberdeen, at or through his website: