Encouraging young organists
A field trip to an Iowa-based organ builder. Lessons from college professors and full-time church musicians. Recitals. Classes in hymn playing, organ literature, and improvisation. Fourteen teenagers from across the Midwest are at Wartburg College this week for the 2016 Pipe Organ Experience, or POE.
Chris Nelson, St. Paul’s director of music ministries and organist, is on the faculty.
“It’s keeping the organ alive,” said Chris, who is teaching individual lessons and played earlier this week at a faculty recital. “It’s keeping the organ in church alive.”
The experience is one of seven held across the country this summer for kids age 13-18. It’s an educational outreach program of the American Guild of Organists. Piano proficiency is required, but no previous organ study is needed.
One of the highlights so far this week was a tour of the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, an internationally renowned company based in Lake City, Iowa. Students also have the opportunity to play a Dobson-built organ at Wartburg, among others.
“Clearly, we want to encourage young people to study the organ,” said Karen Black, director. She also is chair of the music department at Wartburg, professor of music, and college organist. “There’s so many beautiful organs like the one at St. Paul. We hope to further encourage the love of the instrument.”
The week-long experience has a student-faculty ratio of one faculty member to every two students. It is the first time Wartburg has hosted the initiative.
Chris was about the same age of the kids he’s teaching this week when he first started learning how to play the organ. Today, nearly 30 years later, St. Paul people have the joy of listening to Chris play.
“I was always fascinated by the pipe organ in church. I would pretend that the piano was an organ,” he said. “This week has been fun because the kids play at all different levels. Some have been to a POE before. For some it’s their very first time.”
It’s been fun for Karen, the director, too.
“They want to practice. They are excited to hear the music. They love to play,” she said.