Courtney Bryan, a native of New Orleans, La, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests” (New York Times). Her music is in conversation with various musical genres, including jazz and other types of experimental music, as well as traditional gospel, spirituals, and hymns. Focusing on bridging the sacred and the secular, Bryan's compositions explore human emotions through sound, confronting the challenge of notating the feeling of improvisation. Bryan has academic degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (BM), Rutgers University (MM), and Columbia University (DMA) with advisor George Lewis, and completed an appointment as Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Bryan is currently an Assistant Professor of Music in the Newcomb Department of Music at Tulane University, and the Mary Carr Patton Composer-in-Residence with the Jacksonville Symphony. She was the 2018 music recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2019 Bard College Freehand Fellow, and is currently a 2019-20 recipient of the Samuel Barber Rome Prize in Music Composition and a 2020 United States Artists Fellow.
Bryan’s work has been presented in a wide range of venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, The Stone, Roulette Intermedium, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Blue Note Jazz Club, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Bethany and Abyssinian Baptist Churches, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Ojai Music Festival. Her compositions have been performed by the Jacksonville Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, International Contemporary Ensemble, La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Aperture Duo, Duo Noire, Ekmeles, Ensemble Pi, New York Jazzharmonic, Spektral String Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Quince Vocal Ensemble, Jennifer Koh, and Kelly Hall-Tompkins. Collaborators include visual artists Cauleen Smith, Tiona McClodden, Steffani Jemison, Abigail DeVille, Kara Lynch, Lake Simons, Amy Bryan, and Alma Bryan Powell, directors Charlotte Brathwaite, Lileana Blain-Cruz, and Patricia McGregor, and writers Suzan Lori-Parks, Sharan Strange, and Ashon Crawley, and musicians Helga Davis, Brandee Younger, Joe Dyson, Brian Quezergue, and Stephen Gladney. She has two recordings, Quest for Freedom (2007) and This Little Light of Mine (2010) and has a third recording in progress, Sounds of Freedom (2020). Bryan is currently writing an opera, Awakening, a collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Charlotte Brathwaite, Helga Davis, Cauleen Smith, Sharan Strange, Sunder Ganglani, and Matthew Morrison, which will premiere in 2021.
Bryan has given music workshops at various universities including Princeton University, University of Chicago, The California Institute of the Arts, The University of South Carolina, Brown University, University of California, San Diego, DuPaul University, Drexel University, Tulane University, and Xavier University of Louisiana, and has participated in and helped design programs that guide young people to improvise, compose, and work with music technology, including programs through Columbia University, the Jacksonville Symphony, Carnegie Hall, and other artistic collaborations.