For composer Craig Courtney, music has been a lifelong pursuit. He began picking up melodies on the piano at the age of three, and in his teens he analyzed recordings of classical masterworks. This immersion into music helped to foster Courtney’s passion for excellence and influenced the art he would create throughout his life.
Courtney went to the University of Cincinnati, where he received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in piano performance. Feeling that it was necessary and valuable to devote time to totally reworking his technique, Courtney spent time in Milan continuing his piano studies.
Not long after leaving Milan, he was invited to join the music faculty of the famed Mozarteum University in Salzburg as a piano teacher and accompanist for the woodwind and brass department. He also conducted the choir at the Salzburg International Baptist Church, which led to a turning point – due to the scarcity of music in English, he began composing sacred choral music for his choir. One of these compositions would prove to be the catalyst for the next stage in his life.
In 1985, Courtney’s Thy Will Be Done caught the attention of John Ness Beck, founder of Beckenhorst Press. This began a relationship with Beckenhorst that continues to this day. Courtney’s music became a cornerstone of the Beckenhorst catalog, and Courtney himself became an editor for the publisher. Today, he is the Executive Music Editor, a job that has introduced him to yet another passion in his life – mentoring.
In his time at Beckenhorst, Courtney has helped to develop a number of composers. His most important advice for composers is to avoid repeating a successful formula – rather, they should keep challenging themselves to step outside their comfort zone. Try things that don’t feel natural and incorporate them into each new piece.
For Courtney, writing comes from a place inside he calls his “sanctuary.” It is only accessible in solitude, where only he and God are at work. Partnership with God is his deepest motivation; he prefers to think of writing music as a form of prayer. When looking for inspiration, that is the mindset he seeks, and it is truly evident in every piece of music he writes.
Learn more about Craig’s life and aspirations by watching our interview with him.