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USU professor assists Grammy nominee

Guitar-teaching Christiansen's playing featured in record

staff writer

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 00:01

Corey Christiansen, professor of guitar studies at USU, has been called a gifted musician by music critics, far and wide. That recognition was taken to a new level when he lent his guitar playing to acclaimed jazz composer Chuck Owen for his Grammy-nominated record "River Runs."


Christiansen said it was a privilege to be included as a part of the album.


"It's epic," Christiansen said, describing what he thinks is Owen's best work. "I mean, that word is so overused in pop culture right now, but I'm not sure what other word to use for it. It's just huge in scope."


Owen was made one of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation's Fellows in Music Composition in 2009. The honor includes a grant of several thousand dollars, which varies according to each individual fellow's needs and can be spent as the receiver sees fit.


While many recipients might see the cash prize as a payoff for the work they've done over the years, Christiansen said Owen used the award money to further his work in composition.


"I know he dumped all of that reward into his art, which is really the mark of a true artist," Christiansen said. "Chuck thought it was the catalyst to do something really big and keep propelling."


During his graduate studies at the University of South Florida, Christiansen developed a friendship and working relationship with Owen, his composition instructor. Since that time, Owen has featured Christiansen on several of his recordings.


"Chuck has used me in his band on and off for years to do the textural guitar parts," Christiansen said.


He said he often plays and records "quirky guitar parts" and instruments that aren't typically heard in standard jazz writing, including classical, steel-string and 12-string guitars.


"That just goes to show Chuck is really thinking all the time," Christiansen said. "He's always taking ideas from other artists that he hears and he likes, thinking, 'Man, I like that sound. How can I put that into my writing for the jazz band?' He doesn't really limit himself to the idea of doing what most people do."

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