Who the Folk?! Joey Crane

Composer Joey Crane talks to us about his bubbe’s blintzes, composing for hands and why he loves working at the Ale Jail in St. Paul.

You are a composer, with a PHD from the University of Minnesota in composition. What led you to that field?

I started playing guitar when I was ten and I was immediately more interested in coming up with my own songs instead of learning someone else’s. My high school in Kansas offered a music theory class and I started to create more technical compositions. I had planned to major in classical guitar, but then got more into the composition side towards the end of high school.

Where can we hear your compositions?

My website is a great place to listen to some of my work.

I also am involved with a collective in town called 113. We started as a student group at the University and just recently transitioned to a professional group. We’re sponsored by Springboard for the Arts.

Have you always lived in the Twin Cities?

I grew up in Kansas City, actually. I moved here to get my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and recently completed that course of study.

How would you describe your compositions?

Perhaps to be concise, I could say that I usually compose for instruments associated with classical music. Though, I find it sometimes limiting to have conversations about what my music sounds like. I don’t think it gets at the heart of the matter. Recently I’ve been interested in the visual aspect of performance. For example, I have a marimba piece that is almost completely silent, just touching on the bars and sliding; It’s choreography for the hands on the instrument and makes just the slightest sound.

You also work at the Wine Thief & Ale Jail, a beer and wine store in St. Paul. How did that happen?

I’ve liked beer for awhile. I grew up in a Jewish family where I could have wine when I liked the taste of it, even when I was a little underaged. My dad let me try beer once in awhile, but he would usually drink flavorless, macro-brews. Then I had a Boulevard Wheat and I realized beer could have flavor. When I turned 21, I started going through Beer Advocate’s listings and trying out different beers. Now, I’m a “professional” taster and purveyor for the Ale Jail.

As a beer “professional”, what’s your favorite Twin Cities’ beer?

That’s a hard one. Northgate’s Wall’s End brown ale is one of my favorites and I really like Schell’s Star of the North Berliner Weisse.

What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

I like the spirit of Shabbat. What it means for me is spending time with friends and family and having meaningful conversations after a busy week. I like that kind of thing.

What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Blintzes. Specifically, my great-grandmother’s recipe. Her blintzes are the best. I’ve never had ones as good until I went to a music festival in Kiev and tried their blintzes. They were exactly the same.


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