LiaBraaten was influenced early on by a strong relationship with both his parents, Esther and Jerome (Jerry) LiaBraaten, owners of The LiaBraaten Music Center in the heart of mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, in his hometown of Hibbing Minnesota. His closest of three siblings was Candace (Candy), who looked after the pre-school child, and who takes credit humorously for all her brother’s achievements due to dropping Craig on his head as a three-year-old.
Like a typical Iron Ranger, hard work, humility, and respect are hallmarks of LiaBraaten at a very early age. Being born with innate musical abilities (his first audio recording of him singing dozens of memorized songs and commercials was at the tender age of 18 months), LiaBraaten sacrificed and worked hard to hone his craft.
From an early age LiaBraaten learned humility by serving others, from being paperboy for the Hibbing Daily Tribune to leading the Rotary Club in rousing group singing. It has been said that LiaBraaten is “the second most influential musician to come from Hibbing”, the first being Bob Dylan. Most notably, LiaBraaten never disrespected his hometown but invested in it.
As a child LiaBraaten attended the first inaugural Head Start classes on the Iron Range, then later Kindergarten at Greenhaven, grades 1st through 5th at Alice School, grade 6th at Washington, grades 7th and 8th at Lincoln Jr High School, where he studied art and photography with Terry Maciej and Gene Bordwell. LiaBraaten’s poetry and artwork were published in the “Lincoln Log” school newspaper.
While at Lincoln Jr High School LiaBraaten captured two state prizes for his artwork. First, an anti-smoking piece featuring a hangmen’s noose entitled: “Don’t Get Hung Up On Cigarettes”. Second, for a piece in support of the environment featuring an octopus entitled: “Energy Squeeze, Don’t Waste Please”.
After Lincoln LiaBraaten attended Hibbing High School with breaks for attending other schools to specialize in performance.
LiaBraaten attended Bemidji State College at the age of 15, where he captured Grand Prize at the university talent contest for performing his first original hit “Dreams” and where he appeared on an LP produced by BSU, his first professional recording.
At age 16 LiaBraaten attended Interlochen Academy of Fine Arts in Interlochen Michigan, where his composing and performing talents were discovered and lauded by international figures and university professors. His peers would sit outside his practice room and wonder how LiaBraaten made the most difficult pieces sound easy. At Interlochen LiaBraaten’s original compositions were featured in weekly “Composer Forums”, and the protégé learned classical music theory from Professor Tom Benjamin from University of Texas (Austin).
When Lola Perpich, wife of then Governor Rudy Perpich, celebrated her 50th birthday in high style at the Hibbing Memorial Arena, LiaBraaten, who had previously entertained the Perpich’s at the Governor’s Mansion in St Paul MN when daughter Mary Sue Perpich was a Hibbing Winter Frolic Queen Candidate, was chosen to entertain the thousands of guests by giving a concert that included singing the Governor’s favorite song at the time, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” and also “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” for the service men and women in the armed forces.
At Hibbing High School LiaBraaten, a life-long Vikings fan, made the tough decision to choose performance over football, and so began studying with Julliard-schooled Katherine Hessler. As a Senior his peers rewarded him with two honors: “Most Likely to Succeed” and composer-arranger of the new high school anthem “Hail to Hibbing High”, which LiaBraaten arranged for choir and band, and which LiaBraaten conducted at his own graduation.
In high school LiaBraaten toured with a glee club under the direction of Alan Rosenberg, sang the male lead in “Carnival” under the direction of Al Reller, and sang in the Hibbing High School Concert Choir under the leadership of Mary Beth Reller. He contributed to the yearbook “Hematite” in his Junior and Senior years as both artist and poet, most notably creating a thoughtful piece about a classmate friend who died prior to graduation.