Organ playing is the manifestation of a will
filled with the vision of eternity.
Charles Marie Widor
Welcome to the Organ, King of Instruments!
You’ve chosen a glorious, versatile instrument which can, in the same service, soar with the praises of the most enthusiastic congregation or give quiet voice to the intimate yearnings of prayer.
Unfortunately, the organ is also the most misunderstood of instruments, especially by leadership. Because it is a keyboard instrument, it is assumed that the pianist's skills will simply transfer to the organ. Without adequate preparation, the pianist quickly learns that the organ is a demanding and unforgiving master that will amplify any mistake tenfold.
The composer Robert Schumann said it best: “Lose no opportunity of practicing on the organ; there is no other instrument which takes a swifter revenge on anything unclear or sloppy.”
Fortunately, the skills of the organist can be learned! If you will commit yourself to steady and patient practice, I can help you develop the techniques needed to learn and even sight-read hymns on the organ. At the same time, through the study of literature written for the worship service, you will begin to develop a library of music that will help you invite the Spirit into the worship service.
It will take a great “manifestation of will,” but with patience and hard work, I can promise you will soon be “filled with the vision of eternity!”
Lesson Schedule, Practice Commitment, and Music
Lessons are 60 minutes and can be scheduled weekly or every other week.
Occasionally, due to illness, travel, or other unavoidable conflicts, lessons must be missed. Additionally, because of the choirs I accompany, I sometimes have to reschedule lessons to accommodate performances. On top of that, the organ is often unavailable due to funerals or other building conflicts.
Because of these contingencies, organ students are charged not by the month, but by the lesson.
Recommended practice time is one hour daily, five days per week. Practically speaking, many students find they can only schedule three practice sessions per week, in which case I recommend ninety minutes for each session.
Over time, we will begin building your music library with anthologies suitable for prelude and postlude, and also with a few masterworks. I will supply this music as needed and bill for reimbursement. The most significant investment will be The Organists' Manual, by Roger Davis, which retails at Amazon.com for about $75. We generally begin work in this text during the second year of study.
Before the First Lesson
Piano proficiency. Before you can begin the organ, you must be comfortable on the piano. If you can sight-read most hymns and play Bach's two-part inventions, you are ready. If you are one of my piano students, I need you to have completed my third hymn list.
If you fall short of these requirements, but have been called into service anyway, I can still help you! We will simply have more work to do.
Access to an organ. Work with local leadership to arrange for keys to the organ and/or the building. If you are an LDS organist, church music policy encourages priesthood leaders to issue keys to organists. Borrowing a key on a regular basis is impractical, and usually ends with the organist giving up.
Reserve practice and lesson times on your building schedule, where necessary. Arrange for one hour daily or three ninety-minute sessions per week.
Organ shoes, available from Organ Master, approximately $60. A good organ shoe is an essential element of a successful organ technique.
Hymnal. We will be marking every hymn with pedalings, fingerings, and registrations, so you will need your own spiral-bound hymnal. Bigger is better. (Approximately $20)