Paul Gilliland grew up in Otsego, Michigan with an interest in music from a very young age. He began writing songs and learning the piano at the age of seven. He performed in the school bands (playing trombone and percussion) and choirs throughout Junior High and High School. His full band composition, Southern Civil War Suite, was performed by his High School Band in 1980.
He attended Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Theory and Composition and Technical Theatre Design in 1984. During his tenure at Olivet, he composed works for mixed vocal ensembles, chamber groups, jazz band, orchestra, and pit orchestra. He scored incidental music for the stage presentations of William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. He performed as a percussionist in the College Marching Band, Symphonic Band, Orchestra, and pit orchestras; as a pianist and vibraphonist in the college Jazz Ensemble; and as a vocalist in the Concert Choir and Jazz Vocal Ensemble. He also served as a percussionist and principal timpanist with the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1985.
Following his graduation from Olivet College, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a pianist, percussionist, and staff arranger for the 6th Infantry Division (Light) Band stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He arranged multiple concert shows, composed two marches to be played by brass in open position (due to the freezing temperatures in the winter months), and multiple concert and chamber works.
In 1989, he left active military service and returned to Southwest Michigan where he served as a pianist and percussionist with the 126th Army Band, Michigan National Guard as well as the organist and music director for several local churches. During this period he wrote and arranged music for his church choirs.
In 1995, he reentered active military service and was assigned to the U.S. Army Element, School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia where he served as an Administrative Noncommissioned Officer and as the Assistant to the Director of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Development. He adapted Detroit's Own 339th Infantry March (1919) and the 3rd Texas Infantry March (1917) for Military Band.
From 2001 to 2013, he served in various military assignments in Naples, Italy; Vilseck, Germany; Iraq; and Afghanistan. From 2002 to 2005, he served as a Producer, Director, Music Director, and Technical Director for the Naples Community Theater (NCT) of which he served as President from 2003 to 2005. His credits with NCT include: Technical Director – Blithe Spirit, Music Design – The Music Man, Technical Director – The Real Inspector Hound, Director and Script Updates – Aladdino, Director and Orchestra Conductor – School House Rock, Live!, Show Creator, Director, and Music Director – On The Air, Executive Director – A Neil Simon Suite, Actor and Producer – Oliver!, Playwright, Producer, and Director – The Pirates of Pozzuoli – The Curse of the Red Lobster.
From 2013 to 2016 he served as an Senior Instructor for the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
In 2016, he retired from active military service and began studies toward a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Music Composition at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vermont.
Paul earned his MFA in Music Composition in February 2019 where he studied with Diane Moser, Mike Early, Don DiNicola, and Rick Baitz. Comments presented by Rick Baitz during Paul’s graduation from the Vermont College of Fine Arts:
“There so much to say but I’ve been told to keep it snappy, but there should be extra for him because he has been here for six semesters, chose to be here for six semesters. He could not leave, he did not want to leave. This became Paul’s second home, as it has for everybody here pretty much. And I was blessed to work with Paul for three of those semesters.
Paul is one of the most dedicated, and responsible, and driven, and passionate composers I have ever met. He is completely immersed in music composition. Many of us here probably know, but not everybody does, that Paul has become very interested in, one might say obsessed, by number systems as inspirations and generating forces for elements of his music. But what is really interesting about that is that Paul’s music does not sound at all mathematical. He uses these systems, he has found them, as a means of expressing his deepest feelings, and since I worked with him and worked with him so much, I’m aware these feelings are inspired by love; often love of the people closest to him, his love of poetry, his love and appreciation of people and music of different cultures, and his very deep love of this country. Paul is brimming with ideas and so I am sure he that will never ever stop creating so I just want to encourage you to remain part of this family and it has been a pleasure and a joy to work with you and know you for these last few years.”
Paul currently resides with his wife and Pom-Chi in Sierra Vista, Arizona where he works as an instructor for the U.S. Army and spends his free time composing music.