A Brief Biography

Rebecca and her Seeing Eye Dog® Wynell

Rebecca Kragnes was born the middle of three daughters of Howard and Beth Rupp. Although her home was a farm in Northwestern Iowa, the majority of her childhood was spent at the Iowa Braille & sight Saving School — the state school for the blind.

Rebecca’s mom, Beth, enjoyed playing the family piano. At age three Rebecca began picking out a few of the chords she heard. Rebecca's maternal grandmother, Mary Klein, was an extremely gifted keyboardist and played by ear. Young Rebecca enjoyed playing piano/organ duets with her.

Rebecca's formal piano training began when she was in the first grade. She continued to take lessons through college. Although she credits her teachers with broadening her horizons, she enjoyed composing and playing her own work most of all.

During Junior High school, Rebecca returned to living at home and began attending public school. She played clarinet in band, sang in choir, and participated in church music through junior high and high school. Rebecca, her older sister Jenny, and friends performed in a band called the "BLITZ". The band played a combination of current pop and classic rock hits for dances and other school functions. The Rupp Sisters also performed as a vocal trio with Rebecca accompanying on keyboards.

The Rupp home was filled with the sounds of music from the fifties and sixties, with the three sisters listening to their parents’ old albums and 8-tracks for hours. Growing up in the late seventies, eighties, and early nineties, Rebecca enjoyed the current pop of the time. She was especially drawn to black singers like Stevie wonder, Michael Jackson, and Boyz II men.

In 1988, after hearing a few of her compositions, Rebecca’s band director introduced her to New Age Music. Rebecca had been composing piano pieces for years but didn't feel they fit any known genre. The music of Mannheim steamroller and David Lanz helped her discover her musical niche.

As an undergraduate, Rebecca worried about her prospects for a career in music and only pursued it as a minor. She graduated in 1994 as Salutatorian of her Briar cliff college (BCC) class with a degree in Psychology. She completed her master's degree in community counseling at Mankato State University (MSU) in 1996. During her studies at MSU, Rebecca was introduced to E-mail, which — coupled with a term paper on psychometric testing —lead her to meet the man who was to become her future husband.

The year 1996 was significant in many ways. Rebecca received and trained with her first Seeing eye dog® Tanner. This was a particular triumph for her after years of fearing dogs. Tanner and her fiancé Phil's Seeing eye dog Andy were at their sides during their wedding on august 17, 1996.

After two fruitless and frustrating years of pursuing a career in counseling, Rebecca’s fortunes took an unexpected and positive turn when she met one of her inspirations — pianist David Lanz. Rebecca was elated when David promised to critique a tape of her original compositions. David then assisted in financing her recording sessions for Golden. As Executive Producer, David has been generous with his time and advice on Joyful Noel, Surrender, and Upstream.

In the fall of 2000, Rebecca lost Tanner to kidney disease. The four short years with Tanner had a profound impact on Rebecca’s life. Although deeply saddened by his death, she was happy she had dedicated Golden to him.

After three long wintry months of grief and waiting, a second Seeing eye dog® — a Golden Retriever named Shelly — came into Rebecca’s life in February 2001. Immediately Rebecca recognized similarities to Tanner and wondered if Shelly and he were related. Genealogy records showed they shared the same grandfather.

Shelly was the inspiration for the composition "Second Chance" on Rebecca's third album Surrender. Shelly was by her side during the recording of Rebecca’s second CD, a Christmas collection called Joyful Noel. In the fall of 2001, it became clear that Shelly no longer wanted to work as a guide. So, it was off to Georgia to enjoy early retirement.

In February 2002, Rebecca was trained at home with her third Seeing Eye Dog® — a female Golden Retriever named Wynell. Wynell's energy and willingness to work fostered a new growth of creativity in Rebecca. Rebecca's third album, Surrender, is a culmination of experiences from Tanner's death to her first weeks with Wynell.

Rebecca continues to collect CD's by musicians of many genres. Her Christian faith and the quality of the music have recently attracted her to Christian Contemporary music. Artists such as Ginny Owens, Mark Schultz, and Avalon are among her favorites. Naturally, her favorite current pop performers tend to be pianists like Ben Folds, Vanessa Carlton, and Sarah McLachlan. Rebecca also loves to listen to other new age pianists. She has discovered and become involved with a group of solo pianists called "The Whisperings Community". New Age favorites outside of the piano realm are David Arkenstone, Andraes Vollenweider, and Davol.

Although an introvert by nature, Rebecca is involved in her community. She plays for her church and volunteers to speak on blindness and related topics for schools and organizations. She is an active member of the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota (ACBM) and Minnesota Guide Dog Users (MNGDU). Rebecca serves on the Qwest Consumer Advisory Panel and the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind (S-RCB). Rebecca volunteers as Hotline coordinator for a Golden Retriever rescue organization called Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM). She also enjoys reading and quietly socializing with friends. The internet has widened her social circle even more. Rebecca feels fulfilled by her work, and hopes that her musical career will continue to grow.

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