HJ/EDMay 22, 2006

Cokato woman writes, sings Christian music

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

When Rachel Kurtz May was growing up in Cokato she didn’t realize she had endless opportunities, even though she lived in a small town.

Kurtz May became a musician who has traveled the world and performed in every state except two, Utah and Maine.

“I realized that more than what my favorite song is, what matters to me is that music is only a vehicle to meeting and relating with people, young and old, and getting to share in their lives.”

Kurtz May performs mainly Christian music in Lutheran churches and youth events. She sings and plays the guitar and has recorded seven CDs so far. Three of those are available for purchase now, she said.

The photographs and graphic design on one of her albums was done by Kris Barberg of Cokato, Kurtz May added.

Kurtz May is a 1993 graduate of Dassel Cokato High School and has lived north of Cokato since August 2004. Her father, Doug Kurtz, is deceased. Her mother, Brenda, remarried Kent Rydberg and still lives in the Cokato area. Rydberg is a Cokato Township maintenance worker, she said.

Most of the formal vocal training Kurtz May received was while she was in high school. She recalled a high school competition in which she performed “Have You Seen Where the White Lilies Grow?” and how difficult it was to learn, she said.

“It had a large range,” Kurtz May added.

Kurtz May learned to play the guitar when she was about 23 years old, she said.

Kurtz May sings old Gospel, folk and blues style music. Her husband, Michael May, plays the guitar and sometimes performs with her. He is a teacher in DC community education and works at Minnesota Teen Challenge in Minneapolis.

During the first two weeks of July she will be performing before possibly 45,000 youths at the national Lutheran youth gathering in San Antonio, Texas. Kurtz May wants to emphasize to the youths in her audience that they should pursue whatever career or field of endeavor that excites them. “You were created in a unique way,” she said.

“Relationships are what is ultimately most important,” Kurtz May said.

Kurtz May performed with a singing team that went to West Africa in 1997-1998. The team’s job was to attract an audience for the missionaries preaching Christianity to the people there.

“Essentially we were tools of the church,” she said.

Kurtz May and her team also spent a month in India. While touring Africa and India, she saw a great deal of poverty. She noticed, though, that throwing money at problems isn’t always effective. What really matters is love and the relationships people have with each other, she said.

“We learned so much,” she said.

Kurtz May was a church youth director for 10 years. She volunteered for a year and a half at Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church of Cokato. Later, she was hired to be the church’s youth director for a year after she returned from Idaho.

Not only does Kurtz May perform, she also often writes her own music. One of the songs that meant the most to her is about her growing up in Cokato and how she’d play hide and seek in the cornfields, she said.

After her father died, Kurtz May wrote a blues song, “There Must be More,” she said.

Kurtz May recently finished reading a biography about Kurt Cobain. She is currently writing rock music, something she hasn’t tried before, based on Cobain’s experiences.

Her all time favorite number, however, is “By the Grace.”

“It’s an old spiritual and the words are powerful. You can just have fun with it. It’s a good song.” she said.

But Kurtz May stressed that music is only a vehicle for her.

“I love that I can sing, but more than that, is that my life has been full and rich. For that I am so grateful that God has given me those opportunities,” she said.


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