Church is inspiration for local composer Carl MaultsBy
Carl MaultsBy’s house overlooking the banks of Lake Mann is so sonically attuned that it amplifies every sound inside. “When Hurricane Irma came through,” the songwriter said, “the acoustics of the room picked up that low hum of the wind. Oh my gosh, it sounded like a locomotive.”
    The reverberating acoustics of MaultsBy’s studio sound like a hushed church, appropriate for the music director of St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park. The composer with the broad smile has had a career that has taken him all over the world and earned his name on a scholarship, the Carl MaultsBy Prize in Piano Performance, created in 2013 by Central Florida nonprofit Project Grady-Rayam. But sacred music has been the recurring theme in his life.
    Growing up in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando, MaultsBy started learning piano from the pianist at Shiloh Baptist Church. When he was in fifth grade at the now-gone Holden Street Elementary School, he first met “Chief” James Wilson, founder of the music program for Jones High School.
    “He would teach music to the elementary school kids and that would serve as his feeder,” said MaultsBy.
In 1964, MaultsBy was captain of the historic Jones High School marching band that was invited to attend the World’s Fair in New York. (Jones’ participation in this event was the subject of the documentary “Marching Forward,” which was screened at the Florida Film Festival this year.)
    It was while performing at Jones that MaultsBy discovered his gift for musical arrangement when he arranged a popular song of the era for the band. “We played it at a football game and it worked,” he said. “That was really the start.”
    MaultsBy attended Lake ForestCollege outside Chicago, where he dual majored in Mathematics and Music. At the same time, he formed an R&B group called The Soul Syndicate (a name which has belonged to several bands).
    The band scored a record contract, but that left MaultsBy with a dilemma. “Did I want to go into popular music?” he said. “Or did I want to go in a more conservatory direction?”
    MaultsBy would wind up doing both, working as a staff producer for RCA records and studying composition at ColumbiaUniversity in New York. His background in mathematics led him to be one of the first composers to write music for computers.
    “This was back when computers were whole rooms,” he said. “We recorded sounds, tones … We literally had to cut and paste all the notes together.”
    Musical theater and film scores turned out to be a solid outlet for MaultsBy’s competing interests in conservatory and popular music. The combination of grand showmanship with updated beats and jazz influences gave him room to explore on theatrical productions and movie’s such as 1984’s “Beat Street” with Harry Belafonte.
    But through it all, though working in Paris and New York and performances in Tokyo and all over the globe, MaultsBy always came back to the church. “Like Bach, you write a lot of music, but you need to eat, so you get a church job,” he said.
    Church, however, is much more than a job for MaultsBy. “I have had my biggest personal satisfaction composing sacred music,” he said.
    This includes the 2008 Papal Mass, for which he arranged the spirituals “Let Us Break Bread Together” and “Amen! El Cuerpo de Cristo.”
    “At one sitting, a billion or more people saw that broadcast,” he said. “I was able to touch a lot of people.”
MaultsBy notes the energy of a spiritual crowd can match the intensity of a stadium. He recalled the applause of 35,000 people at a performance in Chile and compared it to writing a piece in honor of Martin Luther King Day in a Baptist church in New York. “It was only about 1,500 people,” he said. “But that energy, I recognized it.”
    MaultsBy returned to Orlando 10 years ago. He has volunteered with Jones High School and continues to compose. Several of his pieces have been published in hymnal collections.
    Ultimately, MaultsBy wants to be remembered but not for his own sake. “The greatest legacy is making sure others can do what one has done,” he said, “and then be able to go beyond that.” 
By Trevor Fraser, Orlando Sentinel Entertainment Reporter. 
Last Published: January 17, 2023 9:42 PM
Worship Schedule

Sunday services are in person and live-streamed on YouTube.

  • Sunday Worship, 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.
  • Evening Worship, 5:00 p.m. (in person and Facebook Live)
  • Morning Prayer, Monday-Friday at 9 a.m. on Facebook Live only.

Join us on Facebook Live or subscribe to our Youtube channel.

facebook_logo   youtube_logo   InstagramLogo