Kurt Kaiser (born December 17, 1934) is an award winning songwriter of Contemporary Christian music and member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. He has produced and arranged albums for the likes of: Kathleen Battle, Ernie Ford, Larnelle Harris, Burl Ives, Ken Medema, Christopher Parkening, George Beverly Shea, Joni Eareckson Tada, Ethel Waters, and Anne Martindale Wiliams. He has recorded sixteen piano solo albums of his own. He won a Dove Award at the 24th GMA Dove Awards in 1993 for his album titled Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. In 1992 he was the recipient of a Lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Born in Chicago, Illinois, he attended The American Conservatory of Music. From there, he attended Northwestern University School of Music, where he earned both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in music. In 1959, he joined Word Records as Director of Artists and Repertoire (A&R). He would later move up to be Vice-president and Director of Music there.
From 1965 through 1970, Kaiser served as director of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir, whose current members include Richard Ashley. At the same time, Kurt Kaiser and his friend Ralph Carmichael began writing Christian rock musicals geared to reach out to the youth of the time. Their first musical, Tell It Like It Is, which included the song "Pass It On", sold 2,500 copies and completely sold out its first run. It completely sold out its second run of 100,000 copies as well.
"It was the beginning of youth finding a place in church again", said Carmichael. The two continued on to write two more musicals, Natural High and I'm Here, God's Here, Now We Can Start. He became a regular at Youth for Christ rallies. Kurt Kaiser would, in time, leave Word and start his own label which he still runs to this day, from his home in Texas.
In 1999 Kaiser was invited to Sweden to perform for a gathering of dignitaries and guests at the prestigious Museum of History at Stockholm, at the request of the Ambassador of the United States. He also found time to record with Bill Pearce ("Nightsounds") on the CD A Touch of Gold. Of Kaiser, Bill Pearce said:
Kurt Kaiser came playing piano through Chicago... he and I hooked up with my trombone and before I knew it we were recording "head arrangements" for Word. Then things at Word really started shaking and Paul Mickelson and Ralph Carmichael were raising the level, using professional sidemen and before we knew it Word records was paying our production fees. We were playing with name people, including members of the Chicago Symphony string section, lead trumpet Bobbie Lewis, Mark McDunn and studio players; John Haynor was playing bass trombone with us. Guys like this were playing backgrounds. We were just at the right place at the right time. I was working hard and new young arrangers came through with good ideas and we were doing albums with top musicians. It was just a gift of God with timing that put me in the middle of all this. I was the only one doing anything at Word in brass work at all apart from a guy in Detroit named Chuck Ohman who was a fine trumpeter whom I had worked with in Percy Crawford's days. I was just blowing bubbles, making 30 or 40 albums over the years - there were so many I lost count. Incredible!
In 2001 he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. He helped to found the Day Spring Baptist Church in Waco, Texas and is their choir director.
He received the "Faithfulness in Service " award in 2003.
Kaiser conducts choral workshops and performs solo as well. He's described by friends as someone who will constantly try to help and teach anyone he meets. Ken Barker, senior editorial director at Word, recalled one time when he was eating with Kaiser at a restaurant where a young woman was struggling to play the piano to entertain the customers. Kaiser gave the woman a quick clinic on how she could improve her playing.
He continues to be active as a producer as well.
Musician Carrianne Bernatis writes:
Three years ago, while sharing tea with my dear friend Katy Stokes, I bashfully presented this sketchy idea of a lullaby CD. Katy's eyes brightened as she said, 'Go talk to Kurt!' It took a little prodding, but I finally went to Kurt Kaiser and performed a few of my original lullabies. He immediately started bouncing ideas around and before I knew it, we were off and running... well, that is until everything was put on hold when I found out I was pregnant! The beautiful result is the sweet face you see on the cover of the CD.
Kaiser lives in Waco with his wife. They have four children (all attended Baylor) and ten grandchildren.