Nancy Raabe

Milton resident Nancy Raabe sits with some of her more recent works, including a biography about Carl F. Schalk.

You won’t see Nancy Raabe use the word “beautiful” to describe something in her writing.

The term isn’t enough for her, and surely unworthy of characterizing things with artistic value.

“What makes it beautiful? Be more specific,” Raabe said.

As a former music critic for the Milwaukee Sentinel, you could say it’s normal for her to reach past words like this – but maybe it’s this attention to detail in Raabe’s work that has allowed her to find deeper meaning in her own life.

Using music as her guide, Raabe was eventually led into a life of faith.

“I feel like God is the inspiration for everything I do, inspiration meaning the source,” she said. “I’m also very inspired by people of faith that I’ve worked alongside and witnessed.”

This inspiration has led Raabe, a Milton resident with Southern California roots, to become an author, a worship leader and a composer of church music. Raabe’s most recent publication is “Carl F. Schalk: A Life in Song”, which is a critical biography of one of church music’s leading authorities. Her other publications include piano, organ, vocal and choral works, as well as original arrangements for Christian hymns, anthems and complete musical settings.

In 2010, one of her complete musical settings was presented at Valparaiso University Institute of Liturgical Studies. Another one of Raabe’s original arrangements was a finalist for the first prize at the Ithaca College Choral Composition Festival.

While her resume of work might say different, Raabe isn’t in it for the acclaim.

“It’s not like I have all these great letters after my name or some fancy title, but I just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do a lot of different things and see where it takes me,” she said.

Raabe’s coming into faith began when she met the man who would become her husband in Milwaukee. Bill, who is chairman of the accounting department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was the one to fully open the door for Raabe into the Lutheran church.

“Over time, as she got to know the music of the Lutheran church ... that really cemented it, I think. She found the faith part she was looking for and the music part,” Bill said.

After her time at the Milwaukee Sentinel, Raabe took another music critic position at the Birmingham News in Alabama. This is when Raabe said she became more interested in writing about music for the church.

“A lot of the great classical music comes out of the church,” she said. “It got to the point where my arts editor came in and slapped the newspaper down on my desk and said, ‘This is not the religion page, this is the Arts page.’”

Bill then got a job in Ohio and they relocated, finding themselves across the street from a Lutheran seminary.

With Raabe’s longing to continue discovering her faith, a light went off. She would go to seminary to study theology.

Raabe would earn two theology degrees at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, which she then used to become involved as a church musician, composer and music director in Columbus and Grove City, Ohio.

Today, Raabe is as a doctoral student in musicology at Brandeis University.

Bill’s job offer at UW-Whitewater led them to Milton, where they have lived for about six months. The two said they have felt at home in the small town.

“This might be our last move,” Bill said.

Currently, Raabe is looking for a church musician job and volunteering opportunities in the area as her and Bill introduce themselves to the local Lutheran community.

“Not everyone at this point in our lives has that luxury to just kind of access deeply what you’re doing with your life and what direction to go in,” Raabe said. “I’m waiting to discern what God has in mind for me.”

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