“…with a special audience appeal, Ms. Craig evokes an air of genuineness, “just herself and the music,” creating a sense of immediacy and naturalness in her interpretive gifts.” – Lisa McFarren-Polgar, FestivalDC.com
Jeanne is a trained classical pianist who has been performing in public since the age of 7. She spent much of her youth traveling around the country for piano competitions, and made her orchestral debut with the Cincinnati Symphony at the age of 12. That same year, she represented the United States along with 14-year-old violinist Joshua Bell in “Music, Joy of Youth,” broadcast on public radio in the U.S. and Europe. She has also appeared as soloist with the Columbus Symphony, Northern Virginia Symphony, Northern Virginia Community and New River Valley Symphony Orchestras. Until the age of 14, she performed additionally in solo recitals on flute and string bass. As a child, Jeanne studied with Lucy Chu of Columbus, Ohio; Barbara Wasson of Dayton, Ohio; Marilyn Neeley (2 summers at Brevard Music Center in North Carolina); and Suzanne Guy of Annandale, Virginia. After graduating from Herndon High School in 1987, Jeanne turned down conservatory scholarships and chose to attend Virginia Tech on full scholarship, studying with Mary Louise Hallauer. She earned her B.A. in Piano Performance from Virginia Tech in 1991, and then a Master of Elementary Education degree from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, in 1992.
After 25 years away from performing virtuoso-level repertoire, Jeanne began practicing again and was accepted as one of 72 contestants (from 20 countries) in the 2016 Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. Jeanne spent a week in Fort Worth, Texas, performing for a jury of world-class pianists, including former Cliburn Professional gold medalists Olga Kern and André-Michel Schub. Jeanne performed three times, advancing to the semifinal round of 12, and was a favorite of local and online viewers. She followed her success in Fort Worth with a trip to the Washington (DC) International Piano Artists Competition 6 weeks later, where she was awarded 2nd prize. She also won additional special awards by capturing the hearts of the audience and press jury. Jeanne made her European debut in March 2017, performing a solo recital at the Gasteig, in Munich, Germany. In May 2017, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as the adult amateur winner in the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition.
Since November 2000, Jeanne has served Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in Bedford as Music Minister and, from 2007-2017, as the Director of Music and Liturgy. She returned full-time to the Bedford County School System in the Fall of 2017 as the Music and Choral Director of Forest Middle and Jefferson Forest High Schools.
Jeanne has performed locally in 2-piano, 8-hand concerts with Gustavo Romero, Richard Wroncy, Naomi Amos, Noémi Szigeti Lee and Anna Billias, sponsored by Forte Chamber Music, and in May 2017, performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Jefferson Forest High School Wind Symphony. Jeanne is in demand as a soprano soloist, although she has never had formal vocal training. She prefers to accompany herself when she sings (mainly since she doesn’t know what else to do with her hands!)
In her spare time, Jeanne serves on the board of the Lynchburg Symphony Youth Orchestra, and as Secretary of the Jefferson Forest Band Boosters. She also enjoys long-distance running, web design, and learning languages. She qualified for and ran the 2011 Boston Marathon. Jeanne is married to Eddie, a mechanical engineer for Simplimatic, Inc., permanent deacon of Holy Name of Mary, and amateur winemaker. As the proud mother of Billy, Andy, and Carrie, she is a big fan of the J.F. Marching Cavaliers and the LSYO. As a family, they enjoy hiking, water sports, camping, and the Lynchburg Hillcats.
VIDEOS AND REVIEWS
Washington International Piano Artists Competition, August 2016
Final Round: “A pianist with an exuberant personality, [Jeanne Craig] had given up performing for 20 years, and one day at the encouragement of her family decided to “dust off her music” and compete… Craig performed with great interpretive and technical skill.” – Henri Georges Polgar, FestivalDC.com
The Cliburn, June 2016
Preliminary Round: “Virginian Jeanne Backofen Craig, 46, presented a nearly perfectly balanced, beautifully performed program made up of two contrasting elements in the form of J. S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp minor from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier and Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 in E. With a very light, expert approach to the pedal, Backofen created an engaging ebb-and-flow in the Bach Prelude and a sense of serene persistence (all the while communicating the contrapuntal complexity) in the Fugue. She followed this with a wonderfully resonant reading of the flowing textures and impressionist emotions of the Debussy.” – Wayne Lee Gay, theaterjones.com
Quarterfinal Round: “One of my favorites in the prelims had been Jeanne Backofen Craig of Virginia for her clean and stylish performances of music by Bach and Debussy. Tuesday she switched styles and charmed with pieces by Grieg, Haydn and Liszt.” – Olin Chism, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Jeanne Backofen Craig freshened the repertoire list with the sweet lyricism of Grieg’s Notturno—including a beautifully played, delicate bird-song, and a wonderful range of controlled color in the melody line. The energetic classicism of Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat roared in with energy and finely-honed clarity…” – Wayne Lee Gay, theaterjones.com
Semifinal Round: “Another consistently outstanding competitor was Jeanne Backofen Craig of the United States, whose performances… confirmed the strong impression she had made in the prelims and quarterfinals…” – Olin Chism, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Craig presented the Brahms with the calm intensity the work demands, then shifted outlook smoothly to Liszt’s initially introspective music, which flows toward full-blown Lisztian ecstasy and virtuosity—with particularly mean octave passages. Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 11, featuring folk-like melodies decorated with a full house of pianistic tricks, gave Craig a final test—easily passed—in technique and romantic style.” — Wayne Lee Gay, Theaterjones.com