Svetlana Kurs uses her voice to praise God and pay her tuition
S vetlana Kurs ’01 may be the first MC alumna to put herself through Methodist College by singing. She received her Bachelor of Music in Voice and Performance May 6, graduating magna cum laude.
She would not have made it without a little help from her friends. After applying to Methodist in 1998, the young soprano from Mogilev, Belarus was offered a scholarship that covered half her costs. But her family was unable to help her financially. Two fellow Baptists— Sam Owens of Wallstone Baptist Church in Fayetteville and Earl Ross of Sherron Acres Baptist Church in Durham—came to her rescue.
Owens had met Kurs and heard her sing several years earlier while doing mission work in Belarus. It was he who encouraged her to study music, referred her to Methodist College, and sought financial support for her from local Baptist churches. He and his wife Adele became her first host family. She entered Methodist in January 1998.
Earl and Susan Ross read about Kurs in The Fayetteville Observer and offered to arrange singing engagements for her at churches in the Durham area. Earl Ross, a retired businessman, became her booking agent and drove her to singing engagements. Over the next three and a half years, Kurs sang in 200 churches in North Carolina, receiving love offerings and honoraria sufficient to cover her educational and personal expenses.
In 1999, after Sam and Adele Owens moved to Ital , Earl and Susan Ross became Kurs’ host family. After Kurs gave her senior recital April 3, they hosted a catered reception for her in the Reeves lobby. “I’m very grateful to the Owenses and Rosses for all they did to help me,” she said.
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Kurs is the oldest of five children; she has a younger sister and three younger brothers. “My mom is a stay-at- home mom,” she said. “She sings well and writes music, but has had no formal training. My dad is a truck driver and lay minister.
Kurs sings “The Jewel Song” from th opera “Faust” at her senior recital.
We attend a Baptist church.” Although she
occasionally sang in church, Kurs said she did not seriously consider music as a career until the summer of 1994. That’s when a missionary from Oklahoma persuaded her to attend Oklahoma Baptist College. “It was during my year there that I gained confidence and began to think I might be able to use my musical talent in new ways.”
In 1995, Kurs returned home to Belarus to attend the Technical School of Light Industry. “They taught me how to make shoes in a factory,” she said. “Over a period of a year and a half, I took about 15 English courses at a local university. I went to the conservatory in Minsk to see if they would admit me. I said I was a Christian and wanted to sing for the glory of God. The professor who interviewed me said they did not want to train someone for that type of career.”
She said her repertoire included about 50 songs, most of them familiar hymns or gospel tunes like “His Eye is