Mark Billy is a Verdi baritone of Native (Choctaw) ancestry from Oklahoma. His voice captivates and hearkens to the golden age of bel canto singing. Mark has a multi-faceted career in opera, recital, and concert work. In November, Mark will make his Madison Opera debut singing the role of the Sacristan in Puccini’s Tosca and covering the role of Baron Scarpia. This July Mark made his Minnesota Orchestra debut. The baritone just concluded a run of 11 performances of Mixed Precipitation's 15th season in a production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi, directed by Tara Moses- fellow Oklahoman and member of the Seminole Nation. In the spring Mark will make his debut singing the baritone solos in Orff's Carmina Burana with the Duluth Superior Symphony and will return to the Iron Range to join the Mesabi Symphony for two performances of the Brahms Requiem. 2024 includes many important recital debuts including one in Seattle with the Music of Remembrance concert series and in New York City with National Sawdust.
Next season Mark travels to Boston to create the lead baritone roles of Inki and Okhina in the first ever opera written in a Native language: Shell Shaker written by fellow Oklahoman and Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate. In October of 2024 Mark will join the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and the Canterbury Choral Society to sing the roles he created in Shell Shaker.
In May of this year the baritone made his mainstage debut at Intermountain Opera Bozeman singing Marullo in Rigoletto as well as covering the title role. Mark recently made a surprise Madison, Wisconsin debut in the role of Giorgio Germont in La Traviata by Verdi at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He stepped in at the last minute to much success. Mark was a member of the touring company of Lyric Opera of the North in their production of the Pirates of Penzance as the Pirate King and the Major General. As the 2022-2023 Opera Reading Project IDEA Fellowship recipient, Mark sang Ford in Falstaff this season.
Passionate about the furthering of music education and that of Indigenous culture, Mr. Billy has performed in five different educational tours including the Wheels of Harmony tour sponsored by Intermountain Opera Bozeman. The Wheels of Harmony tour was the first of its kind- a tour specifically designed to expose as many students as possible to Indigenous music and culture (including opera), to engage students in meaningful discussions about United States' Tribal Nations and to encourage students to consider music performance as an option in their life. In April IOB engaged two Indigenous singers (fellow Shell Shaker opera star Kate Raquel Morton, Cherokee Mezzo-Soprano) and one Indigenous pianist to present vocal works composed by Indigenous composers and a sampling of standard operatic repertoire to rural and Tribal schools across Montana. The Wheels of Harmony Tour gave the baritone the opportunity to sing in his Native language- Choctaw as well as to perform music on the Native flute. Recently Mark was engaged to join the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for a second performance at the First American's Museum in Oklahoma- singing in Choctaw and playing the native flute.
Mark was a 2022 finalist in the Sullivan Foundation Awards Competition. Last October Mark joined the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of the North performing arias and ensembles from Verdi’s Rigoletto (title role) and La Bohème (Marcello).
In October Mark sang the role of King’s Man and Drifter in Minnesota Opera’s world premiere production of Edward Tulane, by Paola Prestini. In demand as a recitalist, this season Mark presented solo recitals at Minnesota Opera's Luminary Art Center (inaugural), University of Wisconsin-River Falls in their Coffee Concert Series, Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, University Lutheran Church of Hope, and St. Albert the Great Church.
In the 2021-22 season, the baritone stepped in to sing Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate's work Standing Bear at the 2022 Moab Music Festival in Utah. As the first place winner of the 2018 Schubert Club Competition, the Schubert Club engaged Mark to sing and play clarinet a recital in April 2022 as part of their Courtroom Concert Series. In the summer of 2022 Mr. Billy won first place in the St. Croix Valley Opera Competition and sang with orchestra in the Opera On The River Concert conducted by Joseph Li. The Minnesota Opera engaged Mark to sing a solo recital program to celebrate the opening of MNOP's new venue - The Luminary Arts Center. In 2021 Mark was engaged to join his hometown orchestra the Oklahoma City Philharmonic to celebrate the opening of the First American's Museum in Oklahoma City. He sang in Choctaw and played native flute with the orchestra.
In 2020 Mark was awarded the prestigious Music in Action Grant from the Wagner Society of the Upper Midwest. The grant allowed the baritone along with soprano Alexandra Razskazoff to curate a virtual recital that featured works by Verdi and Verismo composers juxtaposed with narratives of violence against Native Women to bring these largely untold stories to light. In the summer of 2020 Mark sang the role of Angelotti in Chia Patino’s production of Tosca at the Northern Lights Music Festival in the Iron Range of Minnesota (the only opera performing live in the United States) . That same year Mr. Billy was to make his role and house debut at Mill City Summer Opera, singing Marullo in Katherine Carter’s production of Rigoletto as well as to cover the title role. This was cancelled due to Covid.
In 2019 Mr. Billy was a Young Artist with Hawaii Opera Theatre where he sang the role of Figaro in their touring production of The Barber of Seville on Oahu, the Big Island, and Kauai. Following the tour, the baritone made his debut in the role of Marchese in La Traviata on HOT’s main stage, where he also covered Quinn Kelsey in the role of Germont. Upon returning to the mainland the baritone made his role debut as Der Vater in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel led by AVA vocal coach Luke Housner. That summer he was featured as Marchese in La Traviata on the mainstage at the Northern Lights Music Festival.
In 2018 Mark was a Young Artist with Fargo Moorhead Opera singing Melisso in Handel’s Alcina, and appeared as a featured soloist with Minnesota Chorale (Messiah), East Metro Symphony (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony), and Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church (Duruflé's Requiem). In the fall of 2019 Mark joined the St. John’s Boys Choir to sing the role of Mega the Baker in Stephen Paulus’ opera The Star Gatherer. Mr. Billy was also the featured soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the St. Catherine Choral Society and in Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.
Currently Mark serves as Cantor at St. Albert the Great Church, St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church and is a Cantor for the Masses sung in Spanish at Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul. Mark is formerly the bass/baritone of the Bethel Quartet in Hudson, WI under the direction of Skip James. Mark is a soloist/chorister at Minnesota Chorale, and is a member of Minnesota Opera Chorus as well as singing comprimario roles. Additionally Mr. Billy is a voice instructor at North St. Paul High School and the St. Paul Conservatory of Music.
Hailing from Finley, Oklahoma, Mark’s undergraduate studies in voice at the University of Oklahoma were under the mentorship of baritone Richard Anderson. At OU the baritone also studied with the legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. Mark's graduate studies at Indiana University's Jacob School of Music and were with soprano Carol Vaness. Mark is also an accomplished clarinetist, having studied with David Etheridge at the University of Oklahoma.