Ralph Klute has always been interested in music but never considered pursuing it as one of his jobs. During Sunday and Wednesday church services, he plays the piano and organ and works on the reenactment of the main choir of which he was a part and which he led for 30 years. When not busy playing the piano in church, he also works full time in a forklift company where he has worked for 35 years.
(The following story is told by Ralph Klute to Lindsay Strom)
My name is Ralph Klute. I am currently the organist and principal conductor at Whitnall Park Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. I have been principal conductor since 1989 and full time organist for at least 12 years.
My mother was a Sunday school secretary and office secretary for a while. And then got involved in music there, with choirs. So I was in the children’s choir and mom did all the Christmas programs. But it kind of got me into the whole history of the church.
In the second year, I started taking piano lessons. And it happened in the group. I took a band in fifth grade, baritone, so I started this and played that all through high school, until grade 12. Then in fourth grade or just before fifth grade, I would kind of take over for our organist when she came down for communion or something, or she tried to make me play more during the summer. And that’s kind of how I got into this whole church music thing.
When Steve Hibbard, who was the son of Pastor Hibbard, who was the organist here, his wife was a choir director, bell choir director, children’s choir director, all that stuff. They decided to move away from the church and that left Whitnall Park without music. So Pastor asked me that in May, early June, would you consider replacing the organ during the summer until we could find an organist? I said I could probably do it. And then around August, Pastor comes back to me and leaves, we had a very nice senior choir, and you were part of it. I’m like, yeah. He’s like it would be a shame to sit there and let it go. Would you be ready to lead? I said that I have only conducted a children’s choir in my church in South Milwaukee a handful of times. I said well I’ll give it a shot. Since then, I have tried my luck.
I had planned to get into auto mechanics because I went to MATC after high school. But that didn’t feel right to me either.
I bounced from job to job for a while. And then I finally found a job where I am now for a forklift company and have been there for 35 years now.
But actually being in church and doing stuff, I could never see that. I mean I could see myself in a choir, singing a tenor or something. But now lead and sing bass because we don’t have enough bass? Weird.
If I had known I was going this route I probably would have turned things around when I was in high school, maybe go on to music, which I didn’t.
Now I would have liked to continue because I could have been a more accomplished organist. And I am but I just love to have fun. I’ve met enough organists that those in the American Guild of Organists are a bit nerd. And for me, it’s just not fun. I want to have fun when I play.