Phillips, Craig

Craig Phillips (b. 1961) is a distinguished and popular American composer and organist. His choral and organ music is heard Sunday by Sunday in churches and cathedrals across the United States, and many of his works have been performed in concert throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

Dr. Phillips was featured in July 2010 at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Washington D. C. with the première of his commissioned work Sojourn for organ and winds. In July 2002, Dr. Phillips was featured as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of his Concertino for organ and orchestra during the National Convention of the AGO in Philadelphia. He has also appeared as soloist with members of the Eastman Philharmonia, the Oklahoma Symphony, the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, and Musica Angelica at the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival. Dr. Phillips has appeared as soloist at regional conventions of the AGO and at various venues across the United States. He has distinguished himself in a number of competitions, including First Prize in the 1994 Clarence Mader Competition for organ composition. He was a judge for the 2004 National Competition in Organ Improvisation at the National AGO convention in Los Angeles, the 2005 AGO/Holtcamp Award in Organ Composition, and the 2009 American Guild of Organists Award in Organ Composition.

Dr. Phillips has received numerous commissions from such organizations as The American Guild of Organists (for the National Conventions in Washington, DC, 2010, Nashville, 2012, and Seattle, 2000, and for regional conventions in Atlanta, 2007, Lexington, 2011, Boston, 2009, San Diego and Binghamton, 2001), The Episcopal Church (for the 2006 General Convention), The Association of Anglican Musicians, Stellar Brass (USAF Academy Band), The Chamber Orchestra at St. Matthew’s (Pacific Palisades, CA), CoroAllegro of Wilmington, Delaware, The University of Iowa, Syracuse University, University of California at Riverside, Washington National Cathedral and many other churches and institutions. His secular works include a Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra, Concerto for Bassoon and Strings, A Festival Songfor chorus and orchestra, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra entitledSongs of the Unknown Region, Suite for Organ, Brass Quintet and Percussion, two Sonatas for organ, and a number of other chamber works. His works have received critical acclaim in journals such asGramaphone, Clavier, The American Organist, Cross Accent, and The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, and have been broadcast on American Public Media’s Pipedreams. His music was the subject of a feature article in the June 2009 issue of The Diapason. He has received numerous ASCAP awards, and a Meet the Composer grant for a work premiered at the Ojai Festival. His organ and choral and chamber works are published by several prestigious firms. A recoding from Gothic Records was released in 2004 — entitled A Festival Song, — it features a sampling of Phillips’ choral and instrumental works performed by All Saints’ Choir and Craig Phillips as organist. Other works have been recorded on the Arkay, JAV, Summit, and Pro Organo labels.

Dr. Phillips holds the degrees Doctor of Musical Arts, Master of Music, and the Performers Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, where he studied with the great pedagogue Russell Saunders. His Bachelor of Music Degree is from Oklahoma Baptist University, and his early musical studies were at the Blair School of Music in Nashville.

Dr. Phillips is Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Beverly Hills. He previously served for 20 years as Associate Director of Music and Composer-in-Residence at All Saints’, and was honored in 2008 with aPhillipsFest. He has accompanied the semi-professional choir of that church on several concert tours, and been featured with them on compact discs released by Gothic Records. He is a member of the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Anglican Musicians, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and serves on the board of the Clarence Mader Foundation. He resides in West Hollywood, California.

Some personal notes from Craig…

“I’ve had the good fortune to work in a Parish that values great music and supports it in a strong way. I’ve been “steeped” in the great Anglican choral tradition for the last 23 years, and this has influenced my writing in a major way. It’s truly a gift to work week by week with All Saints’ Choir, and to have a choral ensemble on that level performing my music on a regular basis. Also, having mentors, such as Peter Fyfe, Thomas Foster and others, who supported and encouraged me along the way, allowed me the room to pursue my aspirations and really grow as a composer.

As is often said, composing is about 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, and I would certainly agree with that. However, I would say that getting out in the world, traveling and generally breaking away from the ordinary can really free up the the creative process, at least for me. When at home, long walks in the neighborhood often help get the ideas flowing. I have also had, in the last few years, the opportunity to get away to a summer retreat in the South of France for several weeks each summer. This has allowed me to settle into a routine of writing, exploring and relaxing that I have found to be extremely fruitful. All in all, I feel blest to be doing what I love and what I feel I was born to do.” This year, the American Guild of Organists bestowed on Dr. Phillips its distinguished composer award for 2012. Phillips, the 17th recipient, joins an illustrious group that includes composer-critic Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem and Richard Proulx. “Phillips is acclaimed as an organist of great skill and a composer of great imagination,” said Eileen Guenther, the guild’s president.

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