Courtney Bryan, a native of New Orleans, La, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests” (New York Times). Her music ranges from solo works to large ensembles in the new music and jazz idioms, film scores, and collaborations with dancers, visual artists, writers, and actors, and 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 a DMA in music composition from Columbia University of New York, with advisor George Lewis. She has been an instructor at Columbia University and Oberlin Conservatory, and a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department for African American Studies at Princeton University. Bryan is currently an Assistant Professor of Music in the Newcomb Department of Music at Tulane University. She has two independent recordings, “Quest for Freedom” (2007) and "This Little Light of Mine" (2010).
Bryan’s work has been presented in a wide range of venues, including Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, Symphony Space, The Stone, Roulette Intermedium, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, The Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Blue Note Jazz Club, Jazz Gallery, Bethany and Abyssinian Baptist Churches, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Recent premieres include White Gleam of Our Bright Star for orchestra commissioned by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Soli Deo Gloria for guitar duo commissioned by Duo Noire, Yet Unheard for chorus, orchestra, and Helga Davis, a collaboration with Sharan Strange, commissioned by The Dream Unfinished, an Activist Orchestra, and His Love Endures for jazz orchestra commissioned by the New York Jazzharmonic. Other compositions include, Sanctum for orchestra and recorded sound commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Prophetika: an Oratorio, a collaboration with director Charlotte Brathwaite and artist Abigail DeVille, Steffani Jemison’s Promise Machine, Shedding Skin for orchestra, performed by the American Composers Orchestra at Miller Theatre as part of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, saved for three gospel choirs, as part of artist Kara Lynch’s sound installation invisible :: meet me in okemah :: saved, performed by Bethany, First Corinthians, and Convent Ave Baptist Church Choirs, and IMPACT Repertory Theatre at Harlem River Park, and Songs of Laughing, Smiling, and Crying for solo improvised piano and recorded sound, including re-crafted YouTube sound recordings based on the title theme, including popular songs by Placido Domingo, Louis Armstrong, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and others. Upcoming commissions include Do Your Thing for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up “Orchestra Swings” program, The Bremen Town Band, a collaboration with Lake Simons commissioned by Miller Theatre, Blooming for wind ensemble commissioned by Imani Winds and UChigago Presents, and the chamber version of Yet Unheard for the Ojai Festival, conducted by Steven Schick.
Recent performances include solo performances at Fromm Players at Harvard University, Jazz at the Rat at Tulane University, and WWOZ Piano Night; collaborations with Brandee Younger featuring the music of Alice Coltrane and originals at the MET Breuer, Drexel University, CUNY IRADAC, The Graduate Center, the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture, and The Cell Theatre; HER (in honor of): a performance and discussion at Princeton University; the premiere of Spooky Interaction (2014) by George Lewis, a telematic collective improvisation between two human pianists and two computer pianists performing on Disklaviers along with Paul Grabowsky in Melbourne, Australia; and Mary Lou Williams Tribute: The Next Generation at Harlem Stage.
Bryan was recently featured as a speaker at the Tulane University Newcomb College Institute, the National Jazz Museum of Harlem, and The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies of New Orleans, and has curated performances and discussions on women in jazz at Princeton University and Drexel University, and on music and spirituality at Bethany Baptist Church of Newark and the Columbia University Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life. She has given talks at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS) Conversation Series and the Jazz Studies Center at Columbia University, at the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival, and was featured in the Columbia University Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life radio documentary "The Harlem Renaissance: Music, Religion, and the Politics of Race." She was the featured composer at the Callaloo Conference 2014 at Emory University, and traveled with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Horns to Havana program as an instructor with the New Orleans Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Jazz Camp to Havana, Cuba, and is a subject in a documentary by Geoffrey Poister, entitled “Jazz Dreams II,” which documents fourteen years in the lives of musicians, Courtney Bryan, Jason Marsalis, and Irvin Mayfield.