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Tracy Frank, Published March 19 2013

Her Voice: Moorhead mom moved by music to share joy

MOORHEAD – Kathie Brekke has made music her life.

The Moorhead woman plays regular jazz, gospel, rock and country shows around the area.

She performs at Jazz Night at Basie’s in the Fargo Ramada Plaza Suites and Conference Center and at various functions throughout the region with members of the Apostle Blues Band and 42nd Street. She also directs and composes a new show each year for Jasper’s Theater in Park Rapids, Minn., where she performs each season with four generations of her family.

Brekke taught vocal jazz and piano at Minnesota State University Moorhead for 10 years, developed and directed the vocal jazz ensembles at Concordia College for 11 years, and has directed choirs at Moorhead High School.

“With my students, my greatest joy is that the choir becomes a place for students to belong,” Brekke said. “It’s where they simply can be themselves, fit in, create, and express themselves.”

She has also lead music at Triumph Lutheran Church in Moorhead for 16 years.

Brekke grew up around music, first performing on stage with her family when she was just 4 years old.

“I remember singing at one of the fairs in the Minneapolis area, and I sang, ‘New River Train’ with the Hager Twins from ‘Hee Haw,’ ” she said.

Ten years later, Brekke started leading worship in churches.

“I come from an entire family of musicians,” she said.

Her grandfather used to create instruments, she said.

“He taught my mom the love of music and the joy of sharing it,” Brekke said.

Her mom had a popular country swing band in the Minneapolis area, she said.

After her family moved near Detroit Lakes, they performed as a family around the region, Brekke said.

“She had six kids, and she taught us all to be a family and create music with whatever joy of it that you have,” Brekke said.

That’s a philosophy Brekke passed down to her own son, she said.

“I love what it does for others,” she said. “It’s sort of the adage, blessed to be a blessing. When I’m singing or playing music in church, I know that music is ministering to people and maybe helping them come to a place of peace. When I’m at the Ramada, I’m most often helping people celebrate something. I’m bringing joy, I’m bringing music into that moment.”

Brekke’s husband, Shawn, who is a band director for Fargo Public Schools, and son, Dan, who is a high school junior and sings and plays a variety of instruments, often perform with her.

“There’s no greater thing than to do that as a family,” she said.

While she performs in many musical styles, she fell in love with jazz, Brekke said.

She has multiple albums, including “Hopes, Dreams and Promises,” which she recorded after her mom died. It’s a mix of jazz and gospel songs that had been an encouragement throughout her mom’s journey with cancer, she said.

Brekke is also a keynote speaker, focusing mostly about her personal experiences, such as the loss of her mother, she said.

Her mother’s dream was to get her family back together to sing and they were able to perform an entire season at Jasper’s Theater before she died, Brekke said.

Brekke said it’s been interesting to see how cancer has brought people to the theater. She had one woman tell her that for the two hours she spent there, she forgot that she was in pain.

“When a lady with a death sentence from cancer tells you that she forgot she hurt for two hours because of what you did that day, that gives your life great purpose and meaning,” Brekke said.

Brekke was born in Minneapolis, graduated from Detroit Lakes High School, studied jazz piano and vocal music at the University of Oregon and received her master’s degree in music education from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

For a sample of Brekke's talents, see her video page.

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526