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The multi-faceted musical talents of Craig LiaBraaten ~ noted concert pianist, singer-songwriter, teacher-conductor, commissioned composer, recording artist, humanitarian-philanthropist -- has been featured in over forty states ~ from the Seattle Opera House to Florida's Disney World and from the Minneapolis Convention Center to the Louisiana State Capitol. He has collaborated on stage with Victor Borge, the St. Olaf Choir, and the Minnesota Orchestra, performed with some of the world's finest conductors including Neville Marriner and Leonard Bernstein ~ and for royalty from Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
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in briefest biography, has worked full-time in the music industry for
over twenty-seven years. He
performed live for over three million Americans, his performances on national radio, national
television, on compact disc and in videos and commercials have
delighted an estimated total cumulative audience of over 70 million people, and his commissioned
musical compositions have been performed by more than 10,000. One of
the hardest working talents in the music industry, LiaBraaten's
energetic and award-winning performances represent over 150,000 hours on
stage and a conservative estimate
2.5 billion notes played and sung in public.
World Piano Competition
Craig LiaBraaten's sterling education includes Doctor of Musical Arts (ABD) from Louisiana State University, Master of Music (High Distinction) from Indiana University, and Bachelor of Music (magna cum laude) from St. Olaf College, encompassing twelve years of hands-on study with world-renowned professors, some of whom are direct musical descendants of Beethoven and Liszt.
A much-sought-after participant in the World Piano Competition, LiaBraaten's rousing, eclectic concerts feature selections from his twelve solo albums and classical vidoe productions - including hits from television and motion pictures, stride, swing, blues, inspirational and classical. LiaBraaten's easy-going stage manner - combined with his dazzling and versatile performances across an eclectic gamut of genres and disciplines - as a noted music critic once said "it seems there is nothing this man can't play or sing" - keep him busy playing up to 200 concerts and events per year.
Bob Dylan & Kevin McHale
Recognized today in the media and by multitudes as "the second most famous musician to come from Hibbing Minnesota ", Craig LiaBraaten has consistently demonstrated his care and concern for his friends and neighbors in northern Minnesota. Following his successful, award-winning career in music, LiaBraaten's investment and benevolence in his hometown and surrounding communities shows that, unlike his more-famous predecessor Robert Zimmerman AKA "Bob Dylan" , "The Piano Man" LiaBraaten has not abandoned his hometown roots. Instead, Minnesotans ~ and especially Iron Rangers ~ are well aware LiaBraaten has sacrificed for more than 30 years to help to make his native land ~ the Iron Range in northern Minnesota ~ a better place in which to live and work.
In his memoirs, LiaBraaten explains his benevolent spirit as follows: "My hope is to help
inspire other musicians - others from our area - to do the same."
Since LiaBraaten returned to northern Minnesota, he began organizing the largest charitable musical events, benefit concerts, and music scholarships awarded by any private donor in the upper Midwest. Following his example, his musical colleagues have been inspired to give back to Iron Range communities.
Annual performances featuring many of his students and proteges, such as the Community Stage at "Zimmy's" in downtown Hibbing (inspired by LiaBraaten's "Commitment to Community" scholarships and benefits and his www.melody4community benevolences), "Giftstock" (Quad Cities, Minnesota), the local MDA Telethon (Virginia, Minnesota), American Cancer Society "Relays for Life" (St. Cloud, Duluth, Aurora, and Hibbing, Minnesota) and the "East Range Country Show" music scholarship program (Palo, Minnesota, Eveleth, Minnesota and Mt. Iron Minnesota).
Ripple effects of LiaBraaten's positive influence are legendary. Independent estimates are that LiaBraaten's return to the Iron Range has brought more than 100 million dollars into the local economy over the past fifteen years. More importantly, it seems LiaBraaten has awakened a keen desire in local Iron Rangers to do sacrificially more for those less fortunate. "Commitment to Community"- the cornerstone of all of LiaBraaten's work and play - is what LiaBraaten's life has exemplified: "Putting Others First". LiaBraaten's recent state-wide FoodShare award acknowledges his commitment to raising money for the local Hibbing Food Shelf. One example in a LIFE filled with giving.
Let us return to LiaBraaten's musical roots to learn how this all came
Born in Hibbing, the
Dylan, Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics) and the birthplace of the
Greyhound Bus, at an
age Craig LiaBraaten showed
remarkable talent, singing many songs in perfect tune by memory at the
age of eighteen months. He was playing accordion, drums, and
by ear by the first grade. But his parents, Jerome
and Esther, never forced him to practice or take lessons, so
enjoyed many sports, especially football, camping, fishing and hunting,
Muskies and White Tail Bucks
LiaBraaten's love of fishing for walleyes and
muskies has led him to excursions in Canada, for trout on Lake Superior
and for red snapper off the coast of Florida. LiaBraaten shot his first
"spike buck" white tail deer in the deep woods off Mud Creek Trail near
Ely, Minnesota well before "four wheelers" were invented. LiaBraaten
was known to have camped in the deepwoods overnight in order to be
assured of prime hunting at sunup. This love of nature and the great
outdoors was later exemplified in his musical compositions such as the
picturesque "Lake Vermilion".
Craig's entrepreneurial spirit was also evident early on by mowing lawns and trimming hedges. His four paper routes showed his penchant for hard work early on, and meant he delivered the "Hibbing Daily Tribune" on a trek measuring more than three miles, a journey LiaBraaten walked seven days a week for six years (from 5th grade to 10th grade), in weather that was as cold in the Minnesota winter as 50 below zero.
Even as a child delivering papers, and certainly as a young man growing up and donating time to worthy causes such as the "Noon Rotary Club" and the local "Golden Crest Nursing Home",, it has been well-documented that LiaBraaten was as dependable as the sunrise, possessing a blue collar work ethic he learned from his family and friends in the tough heart of the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
Craig LiaBraaten has noted in his memoirs of fond memories how, after he became a household word and returned to his hometown, his former newspaper customers would stop him on the street and reminisce how he was "the best paper boy we ever had". Tragically, m any Hibbingites also remember when his tiny companion, his pet Pekingese "Cinnamon" , was first reported lost (but actually stolen by a trucker passing through Hibbing).
LiaBraaten's hometown newspaper "The Hibbing Daily Tribune" ran free ads for the young LiaBraaten to try to locate his little dog, who was pictured with her adorable puppy face poking out of the top of the newspaper bag that LiaBraaten toted around in all types of weather for six years. Although Cinnamon was never located or returned to her owner, LiaBraaten's memoirs and conversations detail how her memory lives on.
Craig has been
a dog lover his whole life, having bred golden retrievers from champion blood lines, and
having owned as many as four dogs at the same time, including the
following breeds: Weimereiner, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Mutt & Tramp (several
abandoned dogs and cats), five Poodles, eleven Golden Retrievers, and,
of course, one unforgettable Pekingese who started it all ~ "Cinnamon".
Craig's father, Jerome LiaBraaten, owned a music store in Hibbing for many years, the "LiaBraaten Music Center". Yet today, especially after concerts, LiaBraaten meets new friends every month whose family used to take accordion, piano or guitar lessons from his dad, "Jerry". His mother Esther was a bookkeeper and accountant who helped raise 4 children: Renee (Connie), Kirk (Corky), Candace (Candy) and Craig.
While yet a baby, LiaBraaten showed musical promise very early on when, at the tender age of eighteen months, tiny LiaBraaten could perform a memorized repertoire of more than sixty songs. By all accounts, judging by his ability to "extemporize" and "improvise" using these memorized songs and entertain his family and friends as a toddler, it was clear that this child loved the stage and was destined for it.
LiaBraaten's preschool and young child years were spent being introduced to music of the masters, listening to vitage recordings, attending concerts by the Minnesota Orchestra in the beautiful Hibbing High School Auditorium, and also attending his father, "Jerry's" musical ensembles, orchestras and bands, particularly accordion "mass band" concerts at Lincoln School and "Hibbing City Band" concerts at Bennet Park in North Hibbing.
Craig composed his first published composition at the age of 10, a
piano ballade in the style of Frederic Chopin which was dedicated to
his parents on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary.
When the spirited, influential and Juilliard-educated Katherine Hessler took LiaBraaten on as a piano student, Craig's musical abilities began to blossom, and in the 10th grade he decided to pursue music as a career. Hessler's energetic performances, musical training and background (having studied under the legendary Josef and Rosina Levine), and also Hessler's thoughtful, detailed approach to technique and musicianship were big influences on young LiaBraaten.
Throughout his later success,
LiaBraaten never forgot his influential "Miss Katherine". After
capturing the MTNA Collegiate
Artist Piano Competition, he returned to the Iron Range and
performed a dazzling "Tribute to Katherine Hessler" concert at Hibbing Community College to
dedicate the newly acquired Les Hallock Steinway Grand Piano. This
concert featuring masterworks of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, and
LiaBraaten's original works was advertised by WDIO-TV of Duluth, recorded live by "National Public Radio",
and rebroadcast in its entirety numerous times ~ a fitting tribute to a
magnificent and inspirational woman who helped develop LiaBraaten's
love of music.
Interlochen Fine Arts Academy
Craig LiaBraaten's world-class abilities were evident early on, when in tenth grade he won several awards at Interlochen National Music Camp.
At Interlochen Fine Arts Academy's extensive, sixty-day summer music camp, LiaBraaten was introduced to other impressive young musicians, singers and composers ~ themselves budding young international stars in their own right ~ who admired his abilities so much they would stand outside his practice room hour after hour listening to him practice, hoping to discover the secrets behind his masterful and effortless piano and vocal techniques.
LiaBraaten studied piano with Andre Dutkiewicz (Poland), had his first formal music theory and composition classes with Dr. Thomas Benjamin (North Texas State University), witnessed live performances on stage by Van Cliburn and Maynard Ferguson, and had the great honor of singing the Beethoven's glorious Ninth "Chorale" Symphony under the powerful direction of Leonard Bernstein.
The fact that
LiaBraaten's mentors noted the most difficult musical feats seemed "second nature" to LiaBraaten
was confirmation for this young artist to decide to pursue formal music
studies in college.
St. Olaf Concert Choir
As many of LiaBraaten's Letters of Recommendation attest, it was obvious to others at St. Olaf College that what came first in life
for LiaBraaten was one word ~ "others". This mindset ultimately
resulted in the life changing and unprecedented series of musical awards and music scholarships and recording CD demos for
young people that LiaBraaten, founded, created and funded over the past two
decades. Described in detail below and on the Teaching Pages of this website, these Music Scholarships given by LiaBraaten now total over $225,000.
Distinguished Professor Gyorgy
During his Junior and Senior years Craig LiaBraaten captured numerous piano prizes, including MTNA National Collegiate Artist, Schubert Club Young Artist, and St. Olaf College Concerto Competition Winner. Craig was encouraged to play for the internationally revered pianist-teacher Gyorgy Sebok while yet a sophomore at St. Olaf. Craig traveled to Oregon to perform in a master class for Sebok.
The Master Class with Gyorgy Sebok was a nerve-wracking experience for two dozen budding young concert pianists from across the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, and Europe. Each pianist was to play for Maestro Sebok twice during the one-week session, and Craig apparently became so nervous after hearing Sebok berate all the other pianists that he tried to give his time away to another participant. When no one would take over his spot, classmates noted LiaBraaten said he decided to "go down swinging".
For his first-ever performance for Maestro Sebok, LiaBraaten selected what many have called the most difficult pieces in the piano repertoire, the Transcendental Etudes of Franz Liszt, to play for Sebok. Little did LiaBraaten know - SEBOK WAS A MUSICAL DESCENDANT IN A DIRECT LINE FROM FRANZ LISZT - NOT THE SMARTEST MOVE PLAYING LISZT FOR SEBOK, WAS IT?
Witnesses such as A. DeWayne Wee and Rebecca Penneys have related this story. In his memoirs, LiaBraaten details that, when the last chords of the marathon Liszt work crashed through the hall, he "hung his head and waited for the critique to begin". To Craig's and others' amazement, the account goes on to report, Maestro Sebok stood up out of his chair for the first time, walked to the front of the stage to face the audience, and told the entire class and audience in the concert hall that, and we quote:
LiaBraaten was proclaimed by Sebok "a born pianist, a born musician who does things on the piano that no one can teach." The stunned class, who had listend to critical critiques all week, simply erupted in applause. LiaBraaten became the instant class favorite, and all his classmates, including professors from several respected music schools, rejoiced at his good fortune.
From that instant the Master Teacher Sebok took LiaBraaten under his wing, recruiting him to Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, which is well-known in classical musical circles the largest music school in the world, as the IU Piano Undergraduate Faculty alone dwarfs most music schools' entire faculty.
After this life-changing moment, classmates of LiaBraaten's such as Henry E. Breed III or UNISA Grand Prize Winner concert pianist Marcus Thomas report how Distinguished Professor Sebok (now the late Professor Emeritus Sebok) repeated this complimentary assessment of
LiaBraaten publicly and privately on many occasions, including in writing in a letter of
recommendation filed at the Educational Placement office on the IU
(Bloomington) campus and shown online HERE.
University School of Music
After Craig LiaBraaten graduated from St. Olaf with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and high academic honors (magna cum laude) in 1983.
LiaBraaten was awarded a prestigious teaching position at Indiana University in
his first year studying there, dual teaching
posts or double
Instructorships in both Piano and Music Theory. The Dean has
explained that this
dual position was unprecedented in the hundred year history of the
school. Then, upon the unfortunate and unexpected death of a
senior member of the
Indiana University, Craig was put in charge of additional music theory
and music fundamentals classes for both music and non-music majors. As
such, LiaBraaten functioned
as a professor- lecturing, performing, and supervising other
and classes of more than 100 students under the guidance and direction
of Dr. C. Allen Winold, Chair of the Music Theory Department at IU.
During this classroom teaching experience, LiaBraaten teamed up with
Dr. Winold to co-author a revolutionary and simple music theory text ~
a type of "Music Theory for Dummies" set of fundamentals entitled
"Materials I, II and III". LiaBraaten has noted his sense of pride in
that his non-music majors would often exceed the music majors in the
learning, comprehension and demonstration of important music theory
fundamentals. In his memoir, LiaBraaten attributes that to his impassioned and
compassionate teaching manner, which not only inspires others to learn,
but insures that "the bar is raised, and that all in class are
challenged to do their best".
Grand Prix du Disque
Musical Family Tree
Gyorgy Sebok, Craig LiaBraaten's legendary mentor and confidante at Indiana University, is a pupil of the famed Bela Bartok, one of the 20th century's greatest composers. Musicians and vocalists are known through the years up to this day for learning music "the old-fashioned way", that is, sitting side by side with the master teacher, learning one-on-one the finest intricacies of the art of musical performance, technique, and interpretation, just as that art was itself passed down from his teacher's teacher, and, in turn, from each teacher's teacher before him, and so on. Such is the case with LiaBraaten and Sebok, with a remarkable discovery in their musical roots. Via Maestro Sebok and through the famed Liszt Academy in Budapest, LiaBraaten traces his musical heritage directly back to the legendary Franz Liszt and the immortal Ludwig van Beethoven.
LiaBraaten's "Musical Family Tree" looks like this:
is a multiple winner of the esteemed Grand Prix
Disque, a rare honor given to classical recordings of the
caliber and usually awarded only to major orchestras of the world.
Master of Music with High Distinction
Craig LiaBraaten was one of Gyorgy Sebok's prize pupils for what LiaBraaten has gone on record saying were "five intense years" at Indiana University (Bloomington), meeting in weekly piano lessons, piano master classes, and chamber music classes. Sebok shared the duties of teaching the chamber music classes LiaBraaten participated in with other esteemed members of the Indiana University music faculty, including Josef Gingold, Janos Starker, and Manahem Pressler. Other influences on LiaBraaten's musical training at IU included Michel Bloch (piano), and James King and Roger Havranek (vocal coaching, opera, and recital accompanist).
his Master of
(with high distinction). By formal invitation from a committee
including Gyorgy Sebok and
Menachem Pressler, LiaBraaten formally auditioned, and
consequently was immediately accepted into
the most stringent, difficult doctoral piano program in the world.
LiaBraaten was initially delighted, and he pursued this doctoral degree
first at Indiana, but as the demands of national and international
music competitions, concert tours, private teaching and his budding
solo professional career took off, LiaBraaten realized that he could
not possibly devote full time to his demanding doctoral studies. Being
accepted into the most demanding doctoral piano program in the world
was an honor that was short-lived, as LiaBraaten made the most of the "real life" opportunities before him.
Joshua Bell, Concert Violinist
LiaBraaten's performances in the concert hall
at Indiana University were jam packed and attended by faculty and
fellow IU students (such as the now-famous concert violinist and
fellow IU grad Joshua Bell)
and the local Bloomington community. When IU decided to market
itself to the US and the world by putting together a video of musical
performances, LiaBraaten was honored to be one of very few IU students
and faculty selected to perform on this prestigious project, which was
seen by millions and millions of Americans on a variety of television
networks as the renewed scope of IU marketing reached out and touched
National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist
MTNA National Collegiate Artist
addition to his
at Indiana University Craig LiaBraaten captured National
Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist and Oklahoma Symphony
Concerto prizes. LiaBraaten
for royalty from Denmark, Sweden, Norway,
for governors and congressmen, on national television (PBS)
and national radio (NPR). He was
by Indiana University to appear on their
video distributed nationally, while at the same time being commissioned
to compose television theme music for
programs. LiaBraaten toured extensively during these
including MTNA National Collegiate Artist.
1985, in addition to receiving his Master of Music degree, Craig
also released his first album of original
contemporary Christian music (CCM). Recorded in the pristine studios on
campus at Indiana University, this album entitled "First Love",
captured three awards in Nashville, including songwriter (for "The
Little Lamb" and "Why Me, Lord?") and vocalist awards for this new
CCM artist with the "four octave
vocal range". This debut recording is now a collector's item due
to his fame and its limited
release. His "Proclaim God's Peace" CD, commissioned by WELCA, a
national Christian women's group for their national convention at the
Minneapolis Convention Center, has received national acclaim.
Cassettes, and Videos) covers a wide variety of musical styles (see Available
Recordings), including solo CDs featuring classical hits like
Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto", originals like "The Howard Street Rag"
(penned for Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich) and "Lake Vermilion"
(depicting the breathtaking view across this world-famous northern
Minnesota tourist attraction and fishing mecca), and other commissioned
recordings for national women's groups and his friends in the music
industry in Nashville.
Louisiana State University
Craig LiaBraaten was next recruited to study at Louisiana State University, during which time he was invited to compete in the elite World Piano Competition. The highest-ranking American pianist in the competition, LiaBraaten was proclaimed the overall winner by the esteemed East German chairman of the judging committee, who hailed LiaBraaten as "a major talent" who played "heads and shoulders above everyone else in the competition."
The "kind and thoughtful chairman", as LiaBraaten explains it, who confided to Craig his frustration with how the events at the prestigious competition proceeded, however, was overruled by a majority vote of the other judges; and LiaBraaten accepted the controversial decision with good grace.
These events are
quite similar to the International
Chopin Competition, when half of the committee voted Ivo Pogorelich first prize, and
half of the committee voted Pogorelich last prize, due to the young
pianist's unique interpretations of Chopin masterworks. Martha
Argarich resigned the judging committee in protest, Ivo
Pogorelich lost the competition, and the controversy catapulted
Pogorelich to instant stardom and record contracts with Deutche Grammophon.
Doctor of Musical Arts
Craig LiaBraaten's Doctor of Musical Arts (in Piano Performance and Music Literature ABD) from Louisiana State University was achieved against overwhelming odds. A tropical storm that hit the delta area flooded LiaBraaten's residence. Six feet of sewer water in his house and black mold to the ceiling covered everything he owned ~ including his precious grand piano which had traveled with him all across the country.
A northerner, or as they say down south, "a damn Yankee", LiaBraaten was completely unaware of the need for flood insurance, a mistake which cost him everything. As the flood waters rose higher and higher, there was nothing Craig and his neighborhood could do to intervene. In the aftermath, LiaBraaten literally lost every possession he owned -- including antique family photos of his grandparents, family mementos, keepsakes passed down for generations -- not to mention his extensive music library of vintage, urtext scores. Ironically, when FEMA came to assist him in his plight, to his dismay, all that the government provided him with to cope with this devastating loss was these four (4) items: a wire broom, a mop, a towel and a wash cloth.
This time period, coupled with the serious illness of
dear mother, made for one of the darkest and most difficult periods in
LiaBraaten's life. Like his favorite composer, Beethoven, it can be said that our feisty Iron Ranger had a "Heiligenstadt Testament" moment.
Esther LiaBraaten, Craig's LiaBraaten's mother, became increasingly ill and was hospitalized. Craig returned home to her, spending sleepless nights at her bedside at the Hibbing Hospital. Esther recovered briefly, and Craig attempted to return to his expanding career, but her health deteriorated again and Esther passed away before Craig could return home again. Following the funeral ~ at which LiaBraaten himself played and sang for his dear mother ~ LiaBraaten realized his father needed him at home. So he uprooted his professional career to return to Hibbing, a move he thought would be brief.
Being a household name
small Iron Range community,
word quickly spread, and townspeople began asking Craig
if, while he was home, he wouldn't mind teaching their
son or daughter or relative or friend. Soon LiaBraaten had more
students than he
could handle, and this began
a new chapter in his life. LiaBraaten's teaching grew to over 170
private students in three locations, and he soon expanded to other
music fields under the corporate logo "Living Water Music". This
growing business meant that LiaBraaten could stay in his hometown to
care for his father ~ putting family first ~ and still be able to earn
a living in the field which he was destined to be a part of since
earliest childhood. Only lately, as the once robust Iron Range economy
seems to continue to shrink and decay, has this decision become harder
and harder to justify for LiaBraaten.
During his residence on the Iron Range, LiaBraaten has passed on the "love of music" to
hundreds of piano, voice and composing students ages three to 87. Many
of LiaBraaten's students
have gone on to national and international careers in music, such as
Emily Shackelton, who captured First Prize on Garrison Keillor's
Prairie Home Companion at the tender age of ten (10), but in May 2007
graduated from Berklee with a degree in songwriting, captured the John
Lennon International Songwriting Competition and it's $10,000 First
Prize award, and now holds a songwriting position in Nashville, TN. And
so the baton is passed from generation to generation.
"LiaBraaten Sings 10 Classic Hits"
"10 New Classroom Sing-Along Songs"
In 1995 Craig LiaBraaten was invited by Grammy-Award-winning Nashville producer and songwriter Dennis Morgan to collaborate with this country, rock, and pop legend. Following one of LiaBraaten's live performances, Morgan ~ whose catalog includes "The Dance" by Garth Brooks, "I Swear" by John M. Montgomery, and other well-known hits and classics by legends like Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Ronnie Milsap, George Michael, and Neil Diamond ~ invited LiaBraaten to be the featured soloist on two new Nashville releases, (1) Morgan's greatest hits album, as well as a pet project of Morgan's, (2) a children's album of all-new classroom sing-along songs.
LiaBraaten performs cutting edge, versatile and playfully improvisational lead vocals, solo piano and sequenced keyboard tracks on these two international releases. LiaBraaten co-wrote one song with Morgan for the project, and the recordings are distributed world-wide by Morgansongs distribution. See Catalog for CDs and cassettes.
Water Music, Inc., the company Craig LiaBraaten
founded and currently owns, is the parent company for a multi-faceted
business that now includes an expanding fine arts school, a 24-track
recording studio, a CD manufacturing facility, a mobile DJ
sound and lighting equipment contracting, wedding music services, a
agency, and licensed Kindermusik classes for children newborns to age
7. (see Minnesota's
Newest Fine Arts School, LiaBraaten
Teaching Studios, Recording
DJ Service, Sound
and Lighting Rental, Wedding
Ceremony Music, LiaBraaten
Insider Music Advice Column, Voice
Concerts & Music Fund Raisers, Hibbing
School of Music, and LiaBraaten Photo
Gallery of these accomplishments).
Imitation - The Greatest Form of Flattery
Imitation, as the old adage goes, is the greatest form of flattery. A few years ago, LiaBraaten's corporate logo, the Living Water Music, Inc. logo, was virtually copied by a pack sacker who moved to the Iron Range and purchased Erickson Music Center (formerly Crippa Music), a former car salesman who moved up from the Twin Cities, took piano lessons from LiaBraaten, designed a logo which is eerily similar to the LWM logo and painted his storefront corporate blue like the Living Water Music storefront. Of course, copyright infringement is serious business, but LiaBraaten has taken the high road and not pursued this further at this time. The car salesman's self-professed goal is to "bury the competition" in the area, including Schmitt Music in Virginia, and his reaction to LiaBraaten raising the obvious question above to him was -- "sue me". Thus far, LiaBraaten has chosen to take the high road.
Unlike pack sackers, LiaBraaten's musical roots in the area
go back to the Great Depression, when his grandfather Ole LiaBraaten captured First
Prize and the Silver Chalice Trophy (which LiaBraaten has) in an
"Old Time Fiddler's Contest" in 1925. Ole LiaBraaten also performed
on live radio in a trio called the "The
Hibbing Orioles", and when his father, Jerome "Jerry" LiaBraaten owned and operated the LiaBraaten
Music Center in downtown Hibbing in the 60's and 70's. Our PHOTO GALLERY contains evidence of the early years - dating back to 1925 - of the influence LiaBraaten's family business has had on the Iron Range.
Imitation as the greatest form of flattery extends further. Recently a local piano tuner was inspired after a lengthy telephone conversation with "Minnesota's Native Piano Man" and "Hibbing's Second Most Famous Musician" to take two novel ideas from LiaBraaten -- one being a choir CD fund raiser for the local Hibbing High School Choir, the other a choir which was inspired by LiaBraaten's new IRC (see below). Of course, the imitation is never quite like the original. Instead of being a "community choir", the piano tuner's exclusive choir is by invitation only.
The IRC -- AKA Iron Range Chorus or Iron Range Chorale -- founded by
LiaBraaten (see below) is open to "anyone who can carry a tune" -- once
again, "Commitment to Community".
Imitators -- copy cats -- are not creators and innovators like Thomas
Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Bill Gates. Instead of
originals, they create parodies. caricatures, and mere carbon
copies of the original. They are not composers like Bach, Beethoven,
Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Bartok -- all of whom broke new ground and
changed the world. No imitator can hold a candle to our very own and
our very humble local musical celebrity, entrepreneur, benefactor, and
friend of the community -- Maestro Craig LiaBraaten. This document is
our feeble attempt at Living Water Music to begin to set the record
to Historic Downtown Hibbing"
Around the turn of the century, LiaBraaten
performed a series of concerts and street dances in downtown Hibbing
for the Hibbing Jubilee,
the Hibbing Parade, the Hibbing Street Dance, and the Hibbing Mines and Pines Festival,
during which time LiaBraaten coined the phrase "Beautiful Historic Downtown Hibbing"
and used the phrase over and over through the powerful public address
sound systems for these numerous public events, one of which the Hibbing Chamber reported to
the Hibbing Daily Tribune
was attended by 20,000 locals and visitors. When the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce
and the City of Hibbing
chose their new marketing motto to emblazon on the signs at Hibbing's
main gates, what do you think they chose for the welcome signs? "Welcome to Historic Downtown Hibbing".
we should consider giving credit where it is due? LiaBraaten is not only amused by this, he is
happy to inspire others to want to do more for his native community --
the heart of the Iron Range -- Hibbing, Minnesota.
LiaBraaten continues to
generously and weekly donate his time, talent and treasure to
causes such as area nursing homes, hospitals, schools, adults with
disabilities, and non-profit
organizations. In 2007 LiaBraaten's "Commitment to Community"
benevolence campaign donated thousands to non-profit groups in the
Minnesota Northland, including making it possible for a youth group
from Grace Lutheran Church in Hibbing to attend the National Youth Gathering in
the Summer of 2007. In 2007, together with Jamie McDougall, LiaBraaten
founded the Iron Range Chorus /
Iron Range Chorale, non-profit groups offering vocalists from
the Iron Range in the Arrohead Region of northern Minnesota to enjoy
the joy of singing in a mass choir. In 2007 LiaBraaten also created "Friday Night Dance Contests"
for Iron Range youth, coordinating these events by providing security,
chaperones, facility rental, and opportunities for the youth of the
area to run their own after school dances, where kids choose the music
kids want to hear, they choose the theme of the dance night, and they
take charge of concessions and learn entrepreneurial skills at a young
age. LiaBraaten continues to demonstrate he is a tireless worker who
always finds time for those in need and always finds a way to make a
commissioned by WELCA to
compose original music for its Triennial National Convention. WELCA encorporated LiaBraaten's
works into their nationally published worship books and hymnals, and
LiaBraaten was honored to lead worship for 10,000
Lutheran women in worship services at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
LiaBraaten's original music is featured on the commissioned "Proclaim God's
Peace" CD available in our Online
Donated to Youth
In 1996, Craig LiaBraaten
performed sixteen benefit concerts over eight weeks
for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and
the same year his students were featured in a Music Marathon for MDA.
proceeds from all these events went to MDA and Jerry's kids. Since 1994 LiaBraaten
has personally donated over $225,000
in Northern Minnesota to follow their dreams and produce their very own
professional CDs through Living Water Music, Inc., the
Teaching Studios, and the Hibbing School of Music.
American Cancer Society
"Swinging Into Shape"
$30,000 Given by LiaBraaten
In addition to in-kind donations of live music entertainment, sound systems and technical expertise totaling more than $25,000 for Relays for Life at St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, MN), University of Minnesota (Duluth, Minnesota), Hoyt Lakes Arena (Aurora, Minnesota) and Bennett Park (Hibbing, Minnesota) over the past several years, LiaBraaten was recognized as the only Silver Sponsor ($5,000 cash contribution) to the American Cancer Society in the northland in 2004.
Currently, Craig LiaBraaten is donating all proceeds from his recent big-band swing CD entitled "Swinging Into Shape" to the American Cancer Society. Includes LiaBraaten's new band arrangements of great dance and aerobic exercise tunes like: In The Mood, Satin Doll, Mack The Knife, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, and old favorites Basin Street Blues and Sentimental Journey. 18 new arrangements of outstanding vintage dance tunes. All proceeds from "Swinging Into Shape" compact disc go to the American Cancer Society.
Readers, to give the gift that keeps on giving to the American Cancer Society, you may now order "Swinging Into Shape" by calling toll-free 1-800-248-7225.
See "Catalog" to purchase online. Why not do so now?
A Life of Charitable Contributions and Benevolence
Born with what friends and associates call "a heart of gold", substantial gifts and charitable contributions of time, talent and treasure have also been made by LiaBraaten to the following:
Present & The Future
The Present & The Future
LiaBraaten's hero ~ his father Jerry LiaBraaten ~ recently passed away. In 2009 and 2010 LiaBraaten faced important decisions about his business and career. LiaBraaten's multi-faceted business now serves four Midwestern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota) and employs up totwenty-four people.
But economic times on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota are not what they once were. For example, when LiaBraaten grew up in Hibbing, consider that LiaBraaten's graduating class at Hibbing High School was 550 students. Today's 2007 class is roughly 180 ~ more than two thirds of the population has moved away over the past twenty-some years.
Public schools and private schools and local community colleges in northern Minnesota continue to suffer from decreased enrollments. The mining boom ~ once the backbone of the Iron Range ~ is long over. Some experts say there is no more iron ore left to mine, only taconite (a poor grade ore which requires much more processing to extract the valued hematite). Statistics show that most young people who graduate these days from the Iron Range choose to move away, for there are substantially fewer high-paying entry level jobs generated here anymore. Inevitably, this has trickled down to the fine arts on the Iron Range.
The end result of all these changes in the local economy means that, in the next months and coming years LiaBraaten will be making important decisions regarding a possible re-location for his growing corporation, or whether perhaps "The Piano Man" may pursue other interests including touring again or other intriguing entrepreneurial or employment opportunities.
In the year 2011 we are at the cusp of some possible major developments in the Iron Mining Industry on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. Essar Steel in Hibbing MN, Mesabi Nugget in Aurora MN, Polymet in Hoyt Lakes, and Magnetation in Nashwauk MN, together with Excelsior Energy's Mesaba Energy Project -- all these exciting recent developments during these stressful economic times seem to point the way to a potentially rejuvenated Iron Range Mining economy.
These are encouraging reports. From the surge in mining banquets that "Piano Man" LiaBraaten performed live piano music for during the 2010 holiday season, the mining companies seem to be stabilizing and giving priority to providing their employees once again with the finest musical entertainment available on the Iron Range. "The Piano Man" is eager to provide more "first class" entertainment for Iron Range companies, and thus ensuring his "musical gifts" and "giving spirit" can remain in the area.
According to LiaBraaten's memoirs, as in the past 30 years, the future seems to hold much promise for a feisty Iron Range native, a Hibbing man and an "eternal optimist" whose indomitable spirit has not yet been broken. Not by losing all his material things in a flash flood. Not by losing his mother, father and his best friend within a few years of each other. Not by nearly losing his life to B cell lymphoma.
Resilient and steadfast in his devotion to the Iron Range ~ "The Piano Man"LiaBraaten ~ undoubtedly one of the hardest working musicians in the Midwest ~ will continue his musical journey ~ note by note, measure by measure, day by day. If you haven't been fortunate to have met him yet, hopefully one day his path will cross with yours. In that case, as millions who have crossed paths with his enduring & indomitable spirit will attest, you will be truly blessed to come to know a genuine human being whose compassion and caring for his fellow man exceeds these simple words written here.
Those who know him privately and who contributed to this report relate that he consistently walks the walk and does so as humbly and sacrificially as a man can, always putting the needs of others first. LiaBraaten strives daily, as his recent memoir attests, "to put God first and to focus on others in all that I do".
Indeed, LiaBraaten - Hibbing's native son - has been giving a lot more than music lessons for 27 years now.
LiaBraaten's motto since high school says it all: "The best teacher is a good example".
LiaBraaten: A World-class musician whose roots ~ and now his livelihood ~ are presently based on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota.
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