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Blomkest youth releases CD of original music

John Kraemer, 18, of rural Blomkest, plays one of the original songs he wrote for piano that is featured on his first CD, "When the Evening Fades." The CD was released in late October and is available at locations in Willmar and online. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

John Kraemer has always had a knack for playing piano by ear.

The 18-year-old rural Blomkest youth can hear a song on the radio or in church and sit down at his family's living room piano and recreate the tune in no time.

But since he was 15 years old, Kraemer has also been writing his own music -- mostly instrumentals for piano, but he's writing more songs with lyrics and is expanding into orchestra composition as well.

His music is gentle and contemplative.

He writes songs, he said, that "brings people up and inspires them to be creative with their minds."

In a leap of faith for a possible career in music, Kraemer released his first album in late October that features 11 original piano solo compositions.

Called "When the Evening Fades," the professionally-produced CD includes songs that span a sunset to sunrise time frame with titles like "Night Breeze," "Rising Moon," "Dancing Planets," "Aurora" and "Morning Dreams."

During the first month he's sold more than 100 CDs, which has covered the cost of recording his music at a Minneapolis studio and producing 1,000 CDs that have the look, feel and sound of an artist who's been on the road for years.

And, in a sense, Kraemer has been on the music path for more years than his youth implies.

Home-schooled by his parents, Kelvin and Susan Kraemer, John graduated from high school last spring and is continuing his college education from home by taking online music theory, history and composition classes from Valley City State University in North Dakota.

By utilizing a Christian-based program called "CollegePlus!" that coaches students to obtain college degrees by taking college level examination tests and online classes, Kraemer hopes to obtain a four-year degree in communications years ahead and thousands of dollars short of his counterparts who attend a brick-and-mortar school. By the end of the first semester of his freshman year, Kraemer will have 40 college credits.

His 20-year-old sister, Abigail, used the CollegePlus! program and graduates Friday with a four-year degree without a penny of college debt.

Taking college courses via distance-learning allowed Kraemer to spend his summer and fall fine-tuning his music and preparing for the recording session.

He said that kind of project wouldn't have been possible if he was away at college instead of studying at home and getting support from his parents and siblings who helped him with the CD project in areas like designing the cover and researching marketing options.

"That's how we work as a family," said Kraemer.

Besides selling his CDs locally at Whitney Music and Good News Bookstore in Willmar, Kraemer's music is also available on iTunes and Amazon.

In addition to his college courses, Kraemer travels once a month to the Twin Cities to participate in composition workshops through the Junior Composers Institute.

Producing an album at a young age was challenging, but Kraemer said he didn't want to wait until he was older, like 24, to do his first CD. Now that he's already been-there-done-that, it'll be easier to produce additional music CDs in the future.

One of the challenges Kraemer has as a new recording artist is that he continues to play by ear and doesn't write sheet music for his songs. Instead, he composes the piece in his head and practices the music over and over until it's committed to memory.

"It's a gift," he said. "I just seem to remember it."

Kraemer is excited to share that gift with others through his CD and live performances. He'll be doing a concert later this month in Chicago, where he has extended family. He'll be performing tonight at Jazz N Java at the Whitney Music Center in Willmar.

For more information about Kramer and his music, go to:

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750