Kurt Cowling head shot

When I was very young I would go into the back room at my aunt and uncle’s house and plunk on their upright piano, fascinated by the sounds it could make and wonder why some combinations of notes sounded good and others didn’t. At age ten, my parents bought a piano for me and I started taking lessons. By age fifteen, I was performing professionally and had a booking agent in Chicago. My dad had to drive me to gigs, as I was too young to have a driver’s license. When I was seventeen, I started playing with musicians who in a few years would become my college professors. In 1986 I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from UW-Oshkosh.


During college I became a founding member of Streetlife. This band eventually became  the “house band” for the Milwaukee Bucks. I remained with Streetlife for thirteen years and toured Europe with them. The band won multiple WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) awards for Best Adult Contemporary and Best Jazz Group when I was with them.


For over twenty years I was a pianist and conductor with the jazz vocal group Five By Design. We performed with symphony orchestras (pops concerts) and big bands throughout the U.S. and Canada.


Currently I enjoy playing everything from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars with Platinum, a ten-piece cover band that has been voted the top wedding band in Wisconsin two years in a row by the readers of Wisconsin Bride magazine. I’ve also had the pleasure to play with Aretha Franklin, Bobby Vinton, The Diamonds, The Marvelettes, Jeff Lorber and local bands like Spectrum, Cooler Near the Lake, Swing-o-matics and Moshe Skier Band. It's been great fun performing at Summerfest, the world's largest music festival, over thirty times.


For years I've enjoyed my roles as musical director, assistant musical director and pit orchestra musician with Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Skylight Music Theater.


When not performing I’m busy composing and arranging. Over the last thirty years I've co-written and produced hundreds of commercial jingles at my home studio where I use a Mac, Digital Performer, Sibelius and other MIDI gear and software.


My composing and arranging extends beyond advertising to theater groups including The Fireside Theater, American Players Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, and First Stage (where I worked with Broadway's Charles Strouse, composer of the musicals “Annie” and “Bye, Bye Birdie”).


As a studio musician I’ve performed on many projects for Hal Leonard, Inc., and The Fireside Theater.


One of my most rewarding musical experiences was accompanying the gospel choir and youth gospel choirs at Siloah Lutheran Church, located in inner-city Milwaukee. My ten years spent transcribing and playing gospel music taught me much about this genre. This experience became the foundation for a collaboration with Hal Leonard, Inc. to publish my book, Gospel Piano, which is a highly rated best-seller on Amazon.

Photo of Kurt playing with Aretha Franklin (2014).

Performing with Aretha Franklin - 2014