Renee Craig, whose musical career started almost as soon as she could walk on stage, brings an inexhaustible energy to everything she does. She has extensive experience in the jazz, pop and barbershop styles and is a composer, vocal arranger, conductor, soloist, group singer and pianist, specializing in both commercial and amateur projects.
Renee was born in Detroit, Michigan where she quickly rose to vocal prominence as Detroit's top singer while affiliated with the radio program "Guest House" on Station WJR. The host for that immensely popular show was Bud Guest - the son of the famous poet and story teller, Edgar A. Guest. Renee's voice became a familiar sound to Michigan listeners through the many commercials she wrote and performed. She entertained, as a public service project created by WJR, and traveled throughout Michigan as the singing/piano-playing half of a team that visited every kind of a hospital, wheeling around a piano on a dolly right into the wards. Renee claimed she learned more than a hundred new songs during that 3-year period. A most rewarding opportunity!
After moving to New Jersey, Renee began to build another enviable reputation in the commercial "jingle" field writing, arranging and performing numerous radio and TV commercials. She became a Creative Director and Writer/Singer for two production houses in the commercial advertising field in New York City. During that time, there was only one other girl involved in the "background" of this business in NYC....times have changed! Renee also was a singer/pianist with a guitar-playing partner, forming the "Renee & Vic Duo", entertaining throughout the tri-state area, earning a loyal following in northern New Jersey as well.
In the barbershop world, Renee has done just about everything musical. Acknowledged to be one of the most prominent vocal groups in the history of barbershop style harmony, Renee's quartet, the Cracker Jills, became International Champions, traveled the barbershop "circuit" for twenty years with Renee as lead singer and arranger. The "Jills" played a significant role in the development of the style and sound of barbershop harmony as we know it today. The Cracker Jills recorded three albums during their career that remain an enduring example of accomplishments. A re-release of selections drawn from these albums has renewed their popularity.
Renee has had quite a career as a chorus director. She started directing while still living in Detroit, a true training ground for young people who are interested in anything having to do with music. For 9 years, she directed the S.O.C. Suburbanette Chorus (South Oakland County) in Royal Oak, Michigan. In New Jersey, she united two chapters to become the wonderful Ramapo Valley "Spotlight" Chorus. This team of singers has won the International gold medal three times - they have recorded four albums and one unique video called "That's Showbiz", showcasing the talent and creativity within the chorus through venues - Vaudeville - West Side Story - Circus - and Broadway. This was a fabulous and educational project that was recorded in two evenings and filmed in one day!
In the world of Sweet Adelines International, Renee has been active in the planning and implementation of arranger training programs the organization has held. She served as a Certified Music Judge in the Arrangement/Music category; member of the music faculty in Long-Range Planning and served on the International Board of Directors; traveled extensively throughout the world as a coach for choruses and quartets; and had the opportunity to introduce vocal barbershop to a music festival in Fairbanks, Alaska. Renee can now claim she has been in all 50 states, 5 Canadian provinces, Sweden and England with her traveling music show! All the while these things were going on, Renee's love for group singing of every kind brought together the "Monday Nighters", a once-a-week rehearsal for jingle singers in NYC... the "East Coast Singers", a once-a-week 6-voice group of favorite singers (which may be revisited soon)...and "Cloudburst", a 3-voice jazz trio who almost "made it"!!
Renee was invited to direct the Westchester Chordsmen Chorus (SPEBSQSA) two years ago and was very excited about the new venue. Adding this project brought her back to her barbershop roots of her Michigan days. She started arranging barbershop style as a pioneer in the field where you didn't have any rules, and you learned by trial and error. The Wesco men and Renee are becoming a great team as well.
The most recent "new career" Renee has entered is piano teaching. This one has been "on the fence" for quite a while, but she now has a merry band of 27 piano students ranging in age from 8 to 17 and will be preparing for her first student concert in June of 1999! Renee simply loves teaching and introducing the making of music to children and plans to continue for as long as she can find young people who want to play the piano. You can only imagine the creative ways she gets the kids to enjoy what they are doing!
Lastly, the most important area in her life is her small, but ever-so-close family. Her daughter, Holly is married to Brian Beck, lives in Coppell TX, and both are active in barbershop circles and commercial jingle singing musical projects. Son, Ken, is a Doctor of Podiatrics and married to Linda, a certified nurse/mid-wife. They reside in New London, NH and have given Renee two granddaughters, Sayre and Emma, who are already singing and dancing.....we are not surprised! Joe, Holly's son, lives with Renee and is the proud owner/manager of a service station. All in all, things are looking good at the Craig house. A dog, Kayla, and three cats - Dolly, Calico and Aja - complete the family.
To sum it all up.... Renee is a musical genius and legend in the barbershop world. You might say she is "on overload" and loves every minute of it! But being totally involved in everything she knows and loves...who could ask for anything more!!!
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