George Tilley began his piano studies at the age of eight, and learned both piano and music theory under Clarence Jones of Tarrytown, New York. He took up organ instruction while a student at Sleepy Hollow High School, studying under Elizabeth Mead. In his senior high school year he served as organist and choir director of the Community Church in Elmsford, New York, and gave an organ recital at the Irvington Presbyterian Church under the sponsorship of Mary Elizabeth Jenkins.
George received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973. During his four years as a cadet he participated in both the Cadet Glee Club (as its piano accompanist) and the Cadet Chapel Choir, serving as the choir’s president in his senior year. It was in the choir that he first met and studied organ under "Doc" John A Davis, Jr., already organist and choirmaster at the chapel for the previous eighteen years. Under "Doc’s" tutelage (as Dr. Davis was known to the cadets), George continued his organ studies, culminating in a formal organ recital at the Cadet Chapel organ in 1975 — the first cadet nd the only one until this century to do so. In his senior year he presented a second formal recital on this organ, then the largest church organ in the world.
After graduating from West Point, George entered the Army, serving in Florida, Korea, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1985 he returned to West Point as a computer science instructor. While in the area he occasionally substituted as organist at the Cadet Chapel for Sunday services, first substituting for Dr. Davis until his retirement in 1986, and later for his successor, Lee Dettra.
George left West Point and returned to Fort Bragg in 1988, from which he deployed to Saudi Arabia for the first Persian Gulf War. He left active duty in 1992 and transitioned to federal civil service, eventually returning to West Point as a computer programmer in 1996. He immediately resumed serving as a substitute organist, both at West Point and several local churches – including the Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie, filling in again for his long-time friend and mentor, Jack Davis.
In October of 2009, Dr. Davis asked George to replace him as organist and choirmaster at the Reformed Church due to Jack’s declining health. Because to his familiarity with the church’s music program and his history with the choir, George was able to immediately step in and assume these duties.
George and his wife Anna had dreamed for years of retiring to Cape Cod when they both would leave their careers. So it was with great reluctance that we found ourselves accepting George's notice to resign in late 2010. After a year of wandering in the wilderness, the reformed Church selected Janice Grace to take over as Organist and Choirmaster in 2012.
The Tilley's plans to relocate have not moved as quickly as they originally anticipated, and George remains active in the area as a substitute organist for our church and occasionally other churches in the area. He is also a regular in the Chancel Choir as a tenor.
George Tilley, Organist and Choirmaster to 2011
George Tilley at the console of the Davis organ.