Craig Abaya is an independent artist from San Francisco, California. In music, he is an award-winning songwriter, singer, musician, producer and engineer. In film, he directs music performance and interview videos of musical celebrities as well as his own music videos. As a concert photographer, his portfolio includes a veritable Who's Who of popular music. He is also a designer and educator, serving as the Director of Digital Media & Entertainment Programs for San Francisco State University San Francisco State University Extended Learning.
Growing up in San Francisco's Bernal Heights and Mission Districts, Craig was exposed to a variety of cultures and perspectives. His nanny, Margie Williams, a Creole, is the reason for his slight southern accent at the age of four. Primarily Filipino in heritage, Craig's bloodline also includes Spanish, German, Chinese and Indian. Growing up, his parents only spoke English to Craig and his brother and both English and Ilokano language to each other.
Craig recounts his musical background as "Guitar at 12, Drums at 11, Piano at 6, Voice at birth." He played with neighborhood bands starting at the age of nine and went on to form the hard rock trio, "Apparition" singing, playing lead guitar and writing the songs. At the same time, he wrote and played, primarily piano-based, songs for the local youth choir.
When Craig was nine years old, he and his friends made the 8-minute war comedy, "The Battle of McLaren Park" shot over two days in San Francisco's McLaren Park. At around the same time his brother Robert, then a yearbook photographer at University of San Francisco, gave him his first point-and-shoot camera. Notable pictures from this camera were a local police chase and drug bust and a live concert featuring The Tubes and Eddie Money.
At twelve he set out to peddle some vintage comics he purchased cheap from the local Mom and pop in order to raise funds for his first movie camera. As he did with music, he invited his friends to participate. This time, creating short humorous films and animations.
At seventeen, Craig enrolled at San Francisco State University. As he was constantly performing with his band and with the youth choir, he was ambivalent about earning his bachelors. Initially a Psychology major, Craig learned that he could propose a special major. He'd been reading about research in digital technologies for recording and video. With advice from American Zoetrope film producer, Fred Roos and his assistant, Craig proposed a major in multimedia. To do this, he selected courses from the departments of Cinema, Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, Design & Industry (electronics) and Computer Science. However, as there was no curriculum in digital video and audio, he learned a great deal through personal research.
Craig earned his first teaching experience at SFSU's Graduate Film school while he was still an undergrad. The department chairman knew him as the kid who was running around campus seeking the signatures of various department chairmen for his proposed major and offered him graduate credits in exchange for teaching. Craig found the experience rewarding and eventually took a full-time position teaching at Silicon Valley College in Fremont, California.
In 1999, while teaching at the college, Craig began lecturing periodically at SFSU's Corporate Training and Multimedia Studies Programs and was offered an opportunity to launch an intensive program in web development. During its inaugural semester (spring 2000), Apple Computer (Apple, Inc.) featured a 2-page story about the program and, in 2001, hired Craig to help develop a web development curriculum for Florida's Miami-Dade school district (Miami-Dade County Public Schools). They also featured videos of Craig's lectures on their internal resource site: “Apple Learning Institute” (ALI).
In the wake of the success of the Web Design Intensive, SFSU accepted Craig’s proposal to start the Bay Area’s first digital filmmaking program, the Digital Video Intensive. He was joined by colleagues from the film, television and multimedia industries including lead instructor, Philip J. Gallegos (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Emmy Award-Winning producer, Mark DeVito. They launched the DVI in the spring of 2002, coinciding with the production of the first fully digital feature film: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Return to Filmmaking
While taking courses that he listed in his special major proposal, Craig continued to make films and multimedia presentations for fun and various clients. However, he became discouraged with traditional filmmaking during post-production of his 16mm sci-fi short, "Two of the Last." Discouraged by technical problems and expenses he incurred in equipment rentals, lab costs, and wardrobe, he shelved the project. His personal and professional work in film and video diminished as he waited for the technology to catch up and reduce costs. However, he continued his personal research in the latest technologies and eventually landed his full-time teaching position at Silicon Valley College. In addition to other multimedia topics, Craig taught students how to digitize analog video into the Mac using Adobe Premiere and specialized capture cards. He told his students, "Digital filmmaking is still in its infancy. But someday we'll be able to shoot digitally, edit on the desktop, and export it for the big screen or broadcast.”
Everything changed in 2002. Armed with several digital video cameras and a room full of Macs loaded with Final Cut Pro, Craig and Phil launched SFSU's Digital Video Intensive program. It was a rewarding milestone for Craig, although he wasn't actually making films, himself. Then, out of the blue, he received a phone call. Having heard about the DVI, Apple Computer approached Craig with an opportunity to make a feature film with his student crew. With a team of DVI students ("DVIants") and 13 sponsors (including Apple), he directed "Bruce Hornsby Live at Villa Montalvo" for DIRECTV. Eager to publish one of the first books on digital video, authors Peter Shaner and Gerald Everett Jones interviewed Craig and included video of him describing the process in the book and DVD “Real World Digital Video.”
The following year, Craig was asked by musical artist, Joan Armatrading, to assemble a camera crew for a film she wanted to make of one of her performances. Edited by Joan, herself, the film was titled, “Joan Armatrading, All the Way from America.”
A DIY filmmaker since his childhood, Craig was inspired by his recent experiences in which the technology broke down the barriers of budget and learning curve. In 2005, Craig approached San Francisco's legendary Stern Grove Festival, offering to film their annual concert series. It was an opportunity to provide additional hand-on experience to his graduates while providing the non-profit, free concert venue with films of their performances and interview films for the their YouTube channel.
In 2008, Craig was contacted by The Bridge School, who was seeking a staff video producer. The school, and its global initiatives helping children with severe speech and physical impairments to communicate, was founded by singer/songwriter/filmmaker, Neil Young and his wife Pegi. Craig had had a long-standing relationship with the school and served as their official concert photographer at their benefit concerts. He proposed that he take on the role at The Bridge School while retaining his position as Director of Digital Media & Entertainment programs at the university. On Neil's request, he created The Bridge School News Network, a web news show anchored by Bridge School students. The bulk of the programming comprises exclusive backstage interviews from The Bridge School Benefit. That same year, Craig directed his first music video, "Silly Sentimental Fool" primarily for overseas markets, to accompany his 2009 music release, “The Fine Art of Politics.”
Independent Musical Artist
Born into a household that featured a piano, analog tape recorders and a record player, it was not long before Craig began creating and learning on his own. He wired cassette decks together and took advantage of his parents' 2-track recording deck to produce multitrack recordings. He began composing songs on the piano at 9 and on his first guitar at 12. This led to jamming with friends from Bernal Heights and nearby Inner and Outer Mission districts.
During his teens, he formed his first professional band, the grunge/metal trio "Apparition" in Daly City, California. Here he played searing guitar and singing for young fans throughout the Bay Area. At this time he also served as the singer/songwriter/musician for the local church youth group, performing mostly on piano.
After disbanding "Apparition," Craig acquired his own recording equipment and founded the 4-piece group "The Basics" and later, "Abaya," in an attempt to merge the extremes of his two divergent musical endeavors. Both bands received considerable attention from the Filipino press including The Philippine News and Filipinas Magazine and developed an entirely new following. At this time, his unreleased recordings received their first review from Recording Magazine where they wrote, "Everything about the songs and the recording are big!"
In 2009, Craig released his first solo album, The Fine Art of Politics, recording and mixing on his Mac laptop, playing several instruments and featuring many Bay Area notables including Myron Dove (Santana), Eric McCann (Clarence Clemons and the Redbank Rockers) and Kenney Dale Johnson (Chris Isaak). Also featured on backing vocals for the song "When Change Comes" is Craig's first cousin, JoAnne Lorenzana, the Philippine pop/jazz singing star, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2005. The recordings were mastered by Bay Area mastering engineer, Michael Romanowski, an old friend who briefly served as bass player for "Abaya." Craig also directed and edited his first music video of the song "Silly Sentimental Fool" for release in 2010.
An early precursor to these sessions included the song "This Jail I Made." Although it was not included on the album, it received rave reviews from Recording Magazine editor and TAXI founder, Michael Laskow, who wrote, "This guy has ALL his ducks in a row!" The songs that made it to the album also received much praise, garnering awards in songwriting including several from Billboard Magazine. Bay Area radio personality (and last person to interview John Lennon), Dave Sholin, upon hearing a rough version of "Touch Me" responded by saying, "That singer has a lot on the ball." and "You're writing a great story, now make it a great novel!" Songs from the album have received airplay on alternative rock stations the Philippines and college and local radio in the U.S.
- Young, Neil. Waging Heavy Peace. Photo credit
- Jones, Gerald. Real World Digital Video. http://books.google.com/books/about/Real_world_digital_video.html?id=8ghUAAAAMAAJ. Craig Abaya interviewed on companion DVD, chapter contributor.
- Garvey, Mark. Come Together: The Official John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Guide to Music and Video. http://books.google.com/books?id=1PEIAQAAMAAJ&q=Come+Together+The+Official+John+Lennon+Educational+Tour+Bus+Guide+to+Music+and+Video&dq=Come+Together+The+Official+John+Lennon+Educational+Tour+Bus+Guide+to+Music+and+Video&source=bl&ots=qmNwVqT1jR&sig=07a3UBQaQ6X84sI9GUxLe7WPX3I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=P9IEUMf4FoX02QXqvZWzBQ&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA. Photo credit
- Driver, Dustin. Craig Abaya: Shooting Stars.
- "Digital Dynamo" Feature Story SF State News
- Craig at SFSU Experts Page.
- Craig Abaya IMDB Listing.
- Craig as 2013 MacWorld Expo Featured Artist
- Digital Video Intensive Crew Create Feature Concert Film for DIRECTV starring Bruce Hornsby
- Craig Launches Web Design Intensive
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