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Lanny Wolfe (born February 2, 1942) is an American Christian music songwriter, musician, music publisher, and music teacher. He has won two GMA Dove Awards in 1984 for Song of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year for his song, "More Than Wonderful", a song whose recording by Sandi Patti and Larnelle Harris earned them a Grammy Award. Wolfe wrote the Christmas concert-oriented song is "Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy".[not verified in body] He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Gospel Music Association.
Wolfe was born in Columbus, Ohio. He learned how to play the piano by ear, a talent that was used in his local church growing up. He went to Ohio State University and received his baccalaureate degree in Business education, and began teaching public schools. Going to night school, he finished his MBA there as well.
Being a talented church musician, he was offered a job at a Pentecostal Bible school in California to teach worship music – which led him to return to a traditional learning atmosphere where he eventually received his bachelor's degree in Music Education from San Jose State University. He eventually finished a second Master's in the same field.
He headed the music departments at the following Bible schools affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International: Christian Life College in Stockton, California from 1965 to 1966; Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis, Missouri from 1968 to 1974; and at Jackson College of Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi from 1974 to 1993.
Since 1993, he has served as music director at a charismatic non-denominational church in Houston, as well as being a music instructor at South Texas Bible Institute, also in Houston, Texas. Lanny is presently serving as CEO for Paradigm Music Productions, writing, conducting choir clinics at churches across the country and accompanying members of the original Lanny Wolfe Trio for reunion concerts at selected churches and venues throughout the nation.
Influence on gospel music
Wolfe is a pioneer in progressing modern church music in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches from traditional hymns or folk-style singing to more sophisticated worship styles with arranged or pre-recorded music, using styles of music influenced by pop-culture and black gospel music.
Though he heavily influenced the greater world of gospel music during the 1970s and 1980s, it was through his work within his own particular religious denomination, the United Pentecostal Church International, that this work was accomplished. While people throughout Christianity may be able to hum a Lanny Wolfe tune, most of his day-to-day career was spent as the Dean of the School of Music at a Pentecostal Bible school, Jackson College of Ministries.
Wolfe influenced gospel music in two ways: 1) through recordings of original music, and 2) through his once-popular National Music Ministry Conference, an annual conference hosted by the aforementioned Bible school and the First Pentecostal Church of Jackson, Mississippi, where Wolfe worked from 1974 until 1993. He is a brilliant composer – using his education in music to introduce more sophisticated music styles to church audiences more familiar with southern or folk gospel. Using a tantalizing mix of Southern gospel song formulas, emotionally expressive musical phrasings more common in black churches, and classical, popular, or even "jazzy" music arrangements, he played an integral part in elevating the type and styles of music performed in worship services in the United Pentecostal Church and among many other Christian congregations.
Wolfe's original music was performed and released by his trio, the Lanny Wolfe Trio, originally composed of himself, his then-wife, Marietta Wolfe, and Dave Petersen. During the 1980s, the group added others as Dave Petersen departed, followed by his wife who left to raise their children. Eventually, the group performed as Lanny Wolfe and the Lanny Wolfe Trio – the trio itself comprising young talent mostly taken from the student body of the Jackson College of Ministries. His last three albums listed the troupe simply as The Lanny Wolfe Singers. On his last album, the "Singers" were from a local church where he ministered at, since he was no longer affiliated with JCM.
He founded the National Music Ministry Conference (NMMC) as an effort to improve worship music in churches within the United Pentecostal Church, although its influence eventually expanded outside of that denomination. Each annual conference, held in the spring, offered classes in the many aspects of church worship, musicianship, sound control and production, and taught ordinary church musicians important tools in creating a professional sound in church worship. Each conference was capped at the end of the week by the performance of the National Music Ministry Conference Mass Choir (later dubbed Jackson Mass Choir) – made up of participants in the conference, and notable musicians and singers from within the United Pentecostal Church. It was considered an honor among UPCI musical artists to be asked to perform by Wolfe during this concert. Songs made popular by these Mass Choir concerts were often copied by worship teams in the UPCI, charismatic, and other Pentecostal-style churches coast-to-coast. These recordings also brought to the attention of other worship leaders of different faiths this music that Wolfe was introducing to the Pentecostal/Charismatic community – some songs presented there would invariably end up being recorded by more prestigious artists or choirs, such as the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Like his method of musical contribution, music styles attributed to Lanny Wolfe were also varied. His original music picked up on styles within pop culture, and often included the soft, symphonic style of pop music during the 1970s. In his song, I Feel Good, he even pulled off adapting a little bit of the "James Brown Sound" to that up-tempo song. His trio often recorded using London-based orchestras, often arranged by the famed gospel music producer, Lari Goss.
Music at his conference, except for a few select songs, was not original to him. He busily mined other non-mainstream gospel genres for material, often using music recorded by gospel choirs (such as Mississippi Mass Choir, or Rev. Milton Brunson and the Thompson Community Singers) for material. The spirited style of these songs went over well in a denomination known for expressive worship and spiritual dance, which seemed a bit odd considering that many congregations within the United Pentecostal Church at that time were all-white or nearly all-white. The mixture was ingenious, and a natural fit, since the expressive worship styles of white Pentecostals themselves were inherited from the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement, which started off as an inner-city, inter-racial religious movement.
His songs, musical style, along with the artistry of the Lanny Wolfe Trio continue to impact Pentecostal/Charismatic worship music since many worship leaders are well adept at finding or creating the same sound. Many Christian recording artists, songwriters, ministers of music, and Christian educators have studied under his leadership, such as Geron Davis ("Standing on Holy Ground"); Vicki Yohe, TBN artist; Vonnie Lopez, artist with the Kurt Carr Singers; Dan Dean, pastor, songwriter and of Phillips, Craig, and Dean; among others.
Lanny and Marietta Wolfe
- 1968: Long Road
- 1970: No Valleys Tomorrow
Lanny Wolfe Trio
- 1972: There’s Something in the Air
- 1973: Let's Sing a Song About Jesus
- 1974: Come On, Let’s Praise Him
- 1974: Rejoicing Live
- 1975: Shout It, Jesus is Coming!
- 1976: A Brand New Touch
- 1977: Have A Nice Day
- 1977: An Evening With The Lanny Wolfe Trio
- 1978: Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy
- 1979: Make A Joyful Noise
- 1980: Can't Stop the Music
- 1981: Through the Years
- 1983: Behold He Cometh
Lanny Wolfe and the Lanny Wolfe Trio
The Lanny Wolfe Singers
- 1990: Just Keep Praising Him
- 2000: Never Have To Say Goodbye Again
- 1979: Noel, Jesus Is Born
- 1982: Thou Shall Call His Name Jesus!
- 1984: Love Found A Way!
- 1986: We Are The Church
- 1989: Sing Noel!
- 1991: Don't Miss Christmas
- 1991: Praise The Lamb
- 1994: Jesus, We Crown You With Praise
- 1997: A Season, A Savior, A Star
- 1999: The Greatest Story - Lanny Wolfe-Lari Goss
Awards and honors
- 1975: SESAC's Gospel Composer of The Year
- 1976: SESAC's Gospel Composer of The Year
- 1977: Lanny Wolfe Trio received Billboard's Magazine Award of the Year for Top Contemporary Trio
- Nominated eight times by the Gospel Music Association for Gospel Songwriter of the Year
- 1984: GMA Dove Award for Gospel Songwriter of the Year
- 1984: GMA]] Dove Award for Song of the Year – "More Than Wonderful"
- "No Valleys Tomorrow".
- "Lanny Wolfe Trio". SGHistory.
- "The Lanny Wolfe Trio Let's Sing a Song About Jesus".
- "Brand New Touch".
- "Lanny Wolfe Singers Just Keep Praising Him Music".
- "NOEL Jesus Is Born".
- "Thou Shall Call His Name....Jesus".
- "Love Found a Way: An Easter Musical".
- "Lanny Wolfe, Don Marsh - We Are The Church: A Choral Proclamation Of The Body Of Christ". Cross Rhythms.
- "SING NOEL Lanny Wolfe 1989 Christmas Musical w/ Max Lucado narration".
- "Don't Miss Christmas".
- "Praise the Lamb: A Celebration of Praise and Adoration".
- "Jesus, We Crown You With Praise". Musicnotes, Inc.
- "A Season A Savior A Star".
- Lindsay, Terry (2002). Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites (Volume 2 ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. p. 158. ISBN 0825438853.
- "Aclaimed Gospel Singer to Hold Songwriting Workshop". The Facts from Clute, Texas. November 18, 1994.