David Craighead

Categories: IPYA Winners

David Craighead was born in Strasburg, Penn., on January 24, 1924. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and he received his first music lessons from his mother, who was an organist. At an early age he showed great interest in music and especially his favorite instrument, the organ.

Mr. Craighead studied for two years at the Santa Ana Junior College. His music study was with private teachers, including pianist Olga Steeb and organist Clarence Mader. At the age of eighteen, he became a pupil of Alexander McCurdy at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he received the Bachelor of Music degree in 1946. During his four undergraduate years, he served as organist of the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. In 1944 he was accepted as a touring recitalist by Concert Management Bernard R. LaBerge, which is now Karen McFarlane Artists, making his first transcontinental tour shortly after. In his last year at the Curtis Institute, Mr. Craighead joined the faculty of the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.

The following September, Mr. Craighead was appointed organist at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church in California. Among his duties were bi-weekly organ recital broadcasts and the accompanying of numerous oratorios and other musical performances.

From the summer of 1948 through 1955, Mr. Craighead taught in the music department of Occidental College, Los Angeles. From 1955 until retirement in the summer of 1992 he was both Professor of Organ and Chair of the Organ Division of the Keyboard Department at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, NY. At this same time he was appointed organist of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester. David Craighead is now Adjunct Professor of Organ of the Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.

In June 1968, Mr. Craighead received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania, and in 1975 was the first recipient of the Eisenhart Award for teaching excellence at the Eastman School. His most recent award has been an honorary Fellowship in the Royal College of Organists, London, England. He was named Organist Emeritus at both Eastman and St. Paul’s upon his retirement.

Mr. Craighead has maintained a balanced career as both performer and teacher. Many of his students now hold positions in colleges and churches across the country. He has played recitals in seven national conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and at the International Congresses held in London, Philadelphia and Cambridge, England.

Recordings include a 1968 Artisan LP disc of compositions by Franck, Mendelssohn and Messiaen. He has subsequently made two recordings for the Crystal Record Company. The first includes works of Samuel Adler, Paul Cooper and Lou Harrison. The second consists of The King of Instruments by William Albright and the Sonata for Organ by Vincent Persichetti. He also made two recordings for Gothic, one of late Nineteenth-Century American composers, and the other of Albright’s Organbook I and Organbook III. His most recent recording, for Delos, features the Second Sonata by Max Reger and Louis Vierne’s Symphony Number 6.

Mr. Craighead was married to organist Marian Reiff Craighead for 47 years. Until her death in May 1996, they presented concerts for organ duet in numerous cities nationwide, and completed a recording, The Craigheads at Asbury.

David Craighead died on March 26, 2012.

David Craighead’s recital for the International Performer of the Year Award was performed on 24 May 1983 at Trinity Church, Wall Street.

Click here to see the actual program with notes. (PDF)

Click here to listen to performances by David Craighead and conversation with Michael Barone on Pipedreams.