Raised in Bellingham, Washington, Willie first studied the saxophone at age 11 with multi-reed instrumentalist Ray Downey. In 1996, he attended Western Washington University studying jazz improvisation, arranging, and playing regularly with Chuck Israels (former bassist with the Bill Evens Trio and musical director of the National Jazz Ensemble, now known as the Lincoln Center Orchestra), and taking private lessons with B.C. saxophonist Mike Allen. Receiving a Laurels Scholarship in 1999, Willie went on to study at Portland State University. There he studied jazz improvisation and arranging with pianist Darrell Grant and private lessons with saxophonists Rob Scheps, John Gross, and Scott Hall.
Having painstakingly developed himself as a stylistically versatile musician and an individualistic improviser, Willie has enjoyed an exciting career as one of the Northwest‘s premier saxophonists. Being no stranger to the road, he has toured the United States and Europe with such groups as the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the Darrell Grant Quartet: Truth and Reconciliation, Intervision, and Todd Bishop’s Pop Art 4. As a regular member, guest artist or top call sub, Willie has played with such groups and artists as the Dan Faehnle Quartet (hard bob/jazz), the Andrew Oliver Sextet (original progressive jazz), Bobby Torres Quartet (latin jazz), the Stolen Sweets (trad jazz), the Pete Krebs Trio (gypsy jazz, swing), David Ornette Cherry (free jazz), Soul Vaccination (soul, R&B, funk), Miriam’s Well (rock), Debra Arlyn (singer song writer), the Portland Jazz Orchestra (repertoire big band), the Rob Scheps Big Band, the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (original compositions and arrangements, large ensemble), the Tony Starlight Orchestra (classic stage band).