Joel Raney

Joel Raney is a multi-talented composer/pianist who has a reputation for musical diversity and meaningful texts. From sanctuary jazz and sacred theatre pieces to traditional anthems and classically inspired festival compositions, he can simply do it all! A favorite as a clinician, he is approachable and eager to share his faith and life journey. We sent him our signature questions, and we think you will find his answers to be inspiring and enlightening. Editor’s Note: Make sure you click on the links following this article to listen to some of Joel’s latest choral creations.

 

♦ WHAT WAS THE MUSIC OF YOUR YOUTH?

WHATEVER WAS ON THE TELEVISION … THEME SONGS … LAWERENCE WELK…. ETC. THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACT CAME FROM THE BROADMAN HYMNAL AND THE BLACKWOOD BROTHERS QUARTET BOOKS THAT MY DAD KEPT ON THE PIANO. I DISCOVERED CLASSICAL MUSIC AROUND AGE 12, WHEN I LEARNED MY FIRST BACH INVENTION. FROM THEN UNTIL COMPLETING MY MASTERS IN MUSIC FROM THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL, I WAS TOTALLY IMMERSED IN THE VAST WORLD OF SOLO PIANO REPERTOIRE.

 

♦ TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACK GROUND AND HOW THAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE MUSIC AS A CAREER?

I GREW UP IN A SMALL RURAL COMMUNITY WHICH WAS FRIENDLY AND CLOSE-KNIT. BECAUSE I PLAYED BY EAR, AND STARTED AT A VERY EARLY AGE, MY PIANO PLAYING BEGAN OPENING DOORS FOR ME EVEN AS A CHILD, PLAYING FOR WEDDINGS, FUNERALS, AND COMMUNITY EVENTS. I WAS THE CHURCH PIANIST BY THE TIME I WAS 12 OR 13. MY PARENTS BOUGHT ME AN ELECTRONIC ORGAN, AND I STARTED ENTERING TALENT COMPETITIONS. I WON THE MID-SOUTH FAIR TALENT COMPETITION WHEN I WAS 15, PLAYING “TICO-TICO” ON THE HAMMOND T-400 (WITH A RHYTHM- RAIL).

 

♦ WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO NOW? 

I LOVE LISTENING TO MOVIE SOUND TRACKS AND CHORAL MUSIC OF ALL STYLES.

 

♦ TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAITH JOURNEY, AND HOW IT INFLUENCES YOUR MUSICAL CHOICES.

MY FAITH IS THE CORNERSTONE OF MY WORK IN THE MUSIC FIELD. THE HYMNS OF MY YOUTH ARE THE THINGS THAT MOST RESONATE WITH ME, AND FINDING NEW WAYS TO PRESENT THEM, AND PRESERVE THEM, IS TERRIBLY IMPORTANT TO ME. I FEEL MOST CONNECTED TO GOD WHEN CREATING AND EXPERIENCING MUSIC.

 

♦ NAME THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF THAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE.

1. I ONCE PLAYED ACCORDION ON THE BOZO SHOW.

2. WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, MY PARENTS OWNED A CHICKEN FARM, AND I SPENT MY DAYS GATHERING AND SORTING EGGS. WE HAD ROUGHLY 10,000 HENS.

3. I WAS WORKING ON A CRUISE SHIP ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC. WE WENT THROUGH A HURRICANE AND THE SHIP LOST IT’S STABILIZERS. I THOUGHT WE WERE GONERS.

 

♦ WHAT PROJECTS ARE CURRENTLY ON YOUR HORIZON? 

I SEEM TO ALWAYS BE CHASING DEADLINES FOR ASSIGNMENTS AND COMMISSIONS. I WORK BEST WITH DEADLINES, SO IT ALL SEEMS TO WORK OUT. I DO HAVE A NUMBER OF ‘DREAM’ PROJECTS I HOPE TO GET AROUND TO BEFORE I CHECK OUT. I’D LIKE TO DO A CD OF PIANO AND GUITAR MUSIC WITH MY SON. I’D LIKE TO PEN A LARGER CHORAL WORK. AND I’D LIKE TO LEARN ALL THE BEETHOVEN SONATAS I DIDN’T LEARN BACK IN GRADUATE SCHOOL.

 

♦ WHEN ARE YOU MOST CREATIVE? 

THERE ARE TWO ANSWERS TO THAT QUESTION. 1. IN THE EARLY MORNING. 2. WHEN I HAVE TO BE

 

♦ WHAT’S YOUR SACRED SPACE?

BEING BY THE OCEAN.

 

♦ WHICH COMPOSERS/ARRANGERS INSPIRE YOU?

TOO MANY TO NAME. I ADMIRE MY CONTEMPORARIES IN THE SACRED MUSIC WORLD AND ALL THEY BRING TO THE FIELD. THE MASTERS, OF COURSE, PARTICULARLY RAVEL AND LISZT. THEN THERE’S BERNSTEIN, COPELAND, GERSHWIN, AND OTHER AMERICAN COMPOSERS.

 

♦ WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT COMPOSING? 

THINK ABOUT COMPOSING, MOSTLY. I LOVE WATCHING MOVIES AND TAKING LONG WALKS; TRAVELING, ESPECIALLY TO PLACES NEAR WATER; AND COOKING.

 

♦ WHERE DO YOU SEE CHURCH MUSIC GOING IN THE FUTURE? ARE THERE TRENDS YOU THINK ARE IMPORTANT IN THE CURRENT CULTURE OF SANCTUARY MUSIC?

I’VE MIS-GUESSED THIS TOO MANY TIMES TO EVEN TRY. I DO FEEL THAT MUSIC FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES IS FINDING ITS WAY INTO THE SANCTUARY, AND I THINK THAT’S AN EXTREMELY POSITIVE THING.

 

♦ WHAT IS YOUR #1 TIP FOR ASPIRING WRITERS? 

KEEP WRITING, AND RE-WRITING. AND RE-WRITING. AND RE- WRITING.

 

Editor’s note: Please enjoy these releases from Joel Raney:

WHIRLWIND SPIRIT

CREATION’S CATHEDRAL

 

Joel Raney started playing the piano sometime between learning to walk and learning to read. His love for gospel music began in a rural Baptist church in Alabama and it continues to strongly influence his music. After completing his degree in Choral Conducting at the University of Northern Alabama, he went on to earn a Masters in Piano Performance from The Juilliard School. As the guiding creative force at Hope Publishing, he has hundreds of titles in print. Besides his composing and arranging, Joel is a sought-after music clinician, choral conductor, and piano soloist. When not on the road, Joel is Minister of Music at the First Baptist Church in Oak Park, IL. He lives in the Chicago suburb of Elmwood Park with his wife, Susie.

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