A 25-year journey: Perham-raised pianist to release 4th book at Ottertail concert

Kurt Weber, a 2008 Perham High School graduate, began to pursue music in his college years. Since then, he's written three books, and a fourth is on the way.

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Kurt Weber, pianist and 2008 Perham High School graduate, has a passion for writing and playing music.
Contributed / Kurt Weber

PERHAM — Some people find their lifelong passions at a very young age, but for some, that doesn't happen until adulthood. For one Perham High School graduate, he jokes that he even spent some years avoiding what would later become his passion.

Kurt Weber, who spent his teen years in Otter Tail County until he graduated in 2008, has now been playing piano and writing music for himself for about 10 years. He even published three books of music and has a fourth on the way, which will officially be available at an upcoming concert where he and violinist, Ash St. John, will perform at St. John's Lutheran Church in Ottertail on April 22.

With four books and a love for spending his days creating tunes from the keys of a piano, one would expect Weber has known this would end up being his passion for his whole life. However, that isn't quite the case. With a Lutheran pastor for a father and a musician for a mother, he did grow up with music all around him. His mother, who plays piano, organ, violin and even cello, made sure her kids grew up with music in their lives. But as a teenager, Weber began to "rebel" against these musical ways by the time his family moved to Ottertail.

"We grew up taking piano lessons, and I always joke around and say that when I got to high school, I was too cool to play piano," Weber laughed. "I had a little bit of at least a foundation, but I didn't really like it or care to do it and ended up quitting."

Avoiding piano like this, however, is obviously something that didn't last forever. After graduating high school, he decided to join the Army National Guard while attending the University of Minnesota. Two years into his higher education, he heard that he was going to deploy to Kuwait with his National Guard unit near Iraq. So, he took a year off from his education and traveled across the world to start his deployment a little over ten years ago today. Little did he know that, while there, he'd rediscover music in an entirely new way.


Kurt Weber plays the piano in a church in front of the light shining through stained glass windows.
Contributed / Kurt Weber / Photo by Judy Marciniak

"In many ways, that is how it all started," Weber remembered. "I had a desk job that I worked at night, and so I would be one of the few guys up doing whatever we had to do. And this was kind of before podcasts became a thing, but I was able to do whatever I wanted to do work-wise while listening to something, and it was music, and (I) ultimately stumbled onto some piano music that I thought was really beautiful and really pretty. I was like, 'You know what? I kind of want to learn how to play whatever this music was I was hearing.' So I found the sheet music, and I was like, 'I think I can still do this.'"

He continued, "And I would go to the chapel on the base. I'd be done working at, like, two in the morning, so I would go there, and there'd be no one. Everyone would be asleep. And I practiced for like an hour and then go to bed. I started doing this for a few months. I didn't want to tell any of my friends and family back home. I wanted it to be kind of like a surprise, and sure enough, it was."

When Weber returned from his deployment, he sat down and played these beautiful pieces, all proud of himself. As a musician, his mother was, of course, absolutely thrilled. Whenever Weber returned to Ottertail afterward, his mother began to ask him if he'd ever want to play music during the services at St. John's Lutheran Church, where she performs quite often. Weber, with his newfound love for music, immediately said yes and got his first taste for performing in front of an audience.

After just a year of exploring this new musical side of himself, around the summer of 2013, he realized that he wanted to try his hand at creating his own piano arrangement. So, that's exactly what he did, and he arranged his very first original piece of music.

"I remember playing this piece and being so proud of it," Weber said. "When I went back to the University of Minnesota, I was playing it for anybody that cared to listen. And one of my friends happened to be studying music theory. He listens to me play it, and he said, 'Have you ever thought about writing this down and sending it to a publishing company?' And I, of course, I hadn't. This is one of those things that I never thought I would ever do. It's fascinating, learning what gifts you have without even realizing it."

So, he downloaded some free software that writes piano music, and his path as a songwriter began.

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Violinist Ash St. John (left) and pianist Kurt Weber (right) work together to create music.
Contributed / Kurt Weber

He sent the song to a publishing house, but after hearing that it would take them at least six months to come back with an answer, he decided to keep pursuing music in his free time. He didn't want to "sit around and do nothing" for those six months, so he kept writing songs. It's always been a way to decompress, using a separate part of his brain after coming home from his full-time job in technology and coding.

"Three and a half years later, I got a letter in the mail from (the publishing company) back saying, 'Mr. Weber, thank you so much for your submission. We decided not to include your submission,'" Weber laughed. "And of course, it's like three years later. Like, I figured it out. I actually framed the rejection letter and hung it up in my office as inspiration."


It was at this moment that he decided to pursue self-publishing. In January 2017, he published and printed his first book, "Pebbles," which is made of original works. Over a year later, in June 2018, he released his book "Hymns I Love," which includes various arrangements of hymns. His niche was religious music and he decided to follow it. For a period of about four months, he contacted every single Lutheran church in America he could find to see if they'd be interested in his music. He got to the point where he was sending out about 100 emails per day.

This was how he started playing recitals at different churches from all over, and eventually, he ended up writing his third book, "A Christmas Journey," in November 2019. For this book, he even collaborated with a violinist to add accompaniments throughout the sheet music. In 2020, Weber wanted to continue working with a violinist, so he went to Craigslist. That's how he met Ash St. John. The dynamic duo began traveling to different venues to perform violin-piano pieces side-by-side, and along the way, began to work on Weber's fourth book together: "Hymns For You."

This book will be released at their concert coming to St. John's Lutheran Church in Ottertail on Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m. This concert will include classic songs, memorable hymn arrangements and even original pieces created side-by-side. Though Weber didn't always know he'd fall in love with music, it's certainly heavily influenced his life throughout the past 10 years.

"At first, (music) was just something I was doing," Weber said. "Sometimes I joke to friends … I tell them I spent the first 25 years of my life figuring out what I want to do. And I say that because I never ever thought that I would get into piano music and never ever thought that (I'd) get into it the way I have. I realized I had a gift I maybe ran away from as a kid. I've always been one of those that has a dream and tries to push for it as well. It's one of those journeys of saying, 'Hey, I guess I'm a musician.'"

Kurt Weber's books and CDs are available for purchase on his website, . His music can also be found on Spotify .

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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