Before retiring from his WEMC show Mel Lee's Songbag, Lee wrote that the Clymer Kurtz Band's songwriting "has a high level of originality: lyrically, melodically and emotionally. Their vocal harmonies are striking, and their arrangements are fresh."
Formed in 2009, the Rockingham County-based act is a culmination of backgrounds spanning country, choral, hard rock, jazz and bluegrass. The band's first release, Statements and Clues, was quickly followed by the full-length Arms Uncrossed; the eight selections on the 2014 crowd-funded Rain command attention as an intricately themed, mature collection.
"We'd go to the moon to hear you sing," fans have said, but the Clymer Kurtz Band's all-original music is down to earth. "It is very refreshing for my musical ears to hear your pure and beautiful melodies [and] harmonies…. The honesty in the lyrics is really nice to hear."
"My spirit is soothed," one listener wrote recently, "by the lilting melodies that I can't fit into any category. And the message of your songs describes the stuff of life: the hard and the satisfying. I appreciate the humor, the challenge, the honesty, and the inspiration in the songs you write. I like how you don't sugar-coat things like marriage or God."
Members Maria and Christopher Clymer Kurtz, who also released a duo album Better Found in 2005, Craig Zook, and Nick Hurst attended Eastern Mennonite University together and continue to live in Rockingham County, Virginia.
At age nine, Christopher Clymer Kurtz (guitar, vocals, songwriting) ordered his first guitar from a Sears catalog for $25. Later, he first recorded original songs with his brother Zachary, who played their $50 drum set. In high school, Christopher and two friends formed a country and rock band that performed four times. In college, Christopher pursued a social work degree and founded a bluegrass band which the university sponsored on a ten-day, sixteen-gig tour through four states. While volunteering for a prison arts program, Christopher played guitar with a country band in the medium security facility and sang with a community and inmate choir. Christopher currently teaches English to seventh graders.
Maria Clymer Kurtz (guitar, keys, vocals, songwriting) began singing before she learned to talk, and later studied piano for nearly a decade. She played the lead role in her high school’s production of The Sound of Music. She picked up the guitar in college while studying Spanish and music. During the summer of 1996, Maria sang in a female vocal trio that performed in Georgia. Maria has seized every opportunity for choral singing, from middle and high school choirs, to district, regional and all-state chorus competitions, to university chamber singers, to a community chorale and a local choral society. She has performed with two previous bands, Blue Maybe and Clymer Kurtz and Dill, and is currently a member of the independent female vocal ensemble Shekinah. Maria works in home and garden management.
Craig Zook (drums, vocals, djembe) started out as a trombonist but soon realized that the marching band drum line was where it was at. Between trombone, drums, and his vocals, he was a member of every band and choir available to him in high school. He got his first drum set in college, playing in his college's jazz ensemble as well as a hard rock band with his friends. After college he spent a few years with Just Jazzin', a community jazz group. He was also the drummer for the late hard rock outfit Static Machine. Craig is currently a manager at a histology lab.
Nick Hurst (bass, vocals) grew up playing piano and guitar in grade school, but he gained a preference for the electric and upright bass in high school and college. Nick sang in church and chorale, but his taste for vocal harmony stems from nap time with the vinyl of Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. To compliment his parental musical influences, Nick’s post-adolescent mix tape is dominated by the bass licks and lyrical wit of bands such as Cake, the Wood Brothers, and (again) Paul Simon. Nick has played blues-folk-reggae-funk with the EMU-based Red Wagon Band, and he had an exhilarating binge of “eclectic hula-billy” with the Dashboard Hulaboys in Boone, NC. When he’s not searching for a fourth harmony, Nick keeps busy on the pursuit for a healthier environment at the US EPA.