January 2018 Issue
It was at more than one holiday celebration that I was asked the usual question, “So, you’re an organist. Is there a future in that?” The question even came from fellow musicians on a couple occasions. There is no denying that our profession isn’t a standard one. And yes, churches have seen a decline in attendance and there are now more options for leading church music than just the organ. But that doesn’t have me worried that an instrument which has been connected to worship for over 1,000 years will suddenly just disappear. I don’t fear that anymore than I fear there would be a complete loss of all choirs, orchestras, chamber groups, etc. The death knell has tolled for classical music in every generation. It changes – there is no doubt about that–but it doesn’t cease to exist.
As we head into a new year, I’m very hopeful for what the future holds. Consider the prominent organs that have graced the cover of The American Organist. There hasn’t been a shortage in finding substantial instruments built by quality organ firms. There might not be small unit organs going into churches, but that wasn’t the type of instrument that was inspiring people to love the sound of the organ. The craftsmanship in these new, diverse instruments is what inspires, and thankfully organ companies have delivery dates that are four or five years out because of all of their projects. And among these prominent instruments, consider the number that have gone into symphony halls in past years – Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Kennedy Center in DC, Kauffman Center in Kansas City, Overture Center in Madison, and the list goes on. These instruments, and many like them, have brought the sound of the pipe organ to a new and much wider audience. The AGO has initiated new programming which has greatly helped in reaching younger generations of musicians. Pipe Organ Encounters (POE) continue to be successful and have made a positive mark on organ degree enrollment. Where might we be if that program hadn’t started? And the Pedals, Pipes and Pizza events allow a broad audience to experience the pipe organ up close, which might lead to interest in a POE or individual lessons. Our chapter will be hosting a Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza on January 27th and I hope you will help to spread the word and make the event a success. More details can be found in this newsletter. I’m delighted to report that at Peabody there has been great interest in a new Organ for Non-Majors course. The class gives keyboardists the basic skills in organ playing so that they can do occasional work as a substitute or consider taking a regular job. The number of interested students has surpassed the capacity of the course. While they may not be organ majors, I think it can put to rest the idea that no one is interested in studying the pipe organ.
So, as we begin 2018, I hope you will feel motivated, engaged, and hopeful for our vocation. There are plenty of signs of hope. What we cannot do, however, is sit back and expect interest to happen on its own. If you know a talented pianist, suggest that they attend the Pedals, Pipes and Pizza or attend a POE. If you have a school at your place of worship, be it daycare, nursery, elementary, etc., consider demonstrating the organ for them and letting them play it. Suggest to your talented piano student that they consider applying for our chapter’s scholarship program for organ lessons, or teach that student an organ piece which they could play as prelude or postlude to a service, which might inspire them to take lessons.The student that you motivate today could be the person writing this article in 10, 15, or 20 years. The talent and interest is out there. If we’re willing to put in the energy to find it, then our future will be bright.
Best wishes to each of you in the new year!
The January 2018 Issue of the Pipe and Pedal is now available.