Gary Rakestraw


Gary Rakestraw

Gary Rakestraw grew up in southern West Virginia in a home of music-loving Methodists. He has been a resident of Beaufort since 1974 and has had a long association with CSUMC.

Gary moved here to become organist of The Baptist Church of Beaufort and began teaching in the Beaufort County School System. In 1979, he was sponsored in an organ concert at Carteret Street United Methodist Church “CSUMC” by the University of South Carolina Beaufort “USCB”. For about 20 years, he serviced/maintained the pipe organ at CSUMC along with 30 other organs over five states. In 2017, he was interim organist at CSUMC for a number of months.

Gary received his Bachelor of Music degree in Choral with Organ as his performing instrument degree from Carson-Newman University and M.Ed. from USC. He went on to become certified in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Instrumental Music, Strings, and Gifted & Talented. As a member of The American Guild of Organists “AGO” since 1972, he holds the Service Playing Certificate and the diploma from The American School of Piano Tuning. He was vice-president of the Savannah Chapter, AGO, for two terms before becoming a founding member of the Beaufort County Chapter in 1999 where he served as Secretary and then Treasurer for eight years.

After serving another church as organist for 29 years and retiring from teaching after 32 years, Gary served a church as full-time music director for four years at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. Then, he served as interim music director/organist at MCAS “Marine Corps Air Station” Chapel, First Presbyterian, and twice back at St. Peter's Catholic. He was also church administrator for Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort for five years. From 2016-2022, and he worked in property management.

Gary has taught many students over the years. Some are serving in full-time capacities as music teachers, church music directors, and as organists.

In 2010, Gary was invited to play Holy Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, the largest church in the world! He says that was most fun he's ever had....YET!