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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “An inspired youth…”

February 1, 2013

Dear Michael,

My 6yr old son is passionate about pipe organs and after discussing this with a mutal friend (Lynn Olson) she suggested that we email you.

What advice do you have for an aspiring musician? He has just begun piano lessons and at what age and where do you suggest we go to find out about pipe organ lessons? His name is Reed (ironically enough) and he would also like to know the best way to get tours of pipe organs around the Twin Cities? We cannot pass a church without him asking if it has a pipe organ or if we can stop to look inside. He loves looking at the pipes! Thank you for your advice and time. Feel free to call me to discuss if you'd rather.

Best Regards,

Therese Graf

Dear Therese,

Oh dear, by what circumstance did this happen!? Heaven help us all. :-)

No, really, wonderful!! This is very encouraging.

First, understand that really fine piano technique is required to be a really fine organist, and your son might best apply himself diligently to the piano until he is a bit longer-in-the-leg, so that when he starts organ lessons he's big enough to reach the pedals.

The challenge of getting a youngster started with organ at his age is that he may be distracted by the 'gizzmos' and had more fun making a lot of noise with the stops rather than refining a superb technique. Nothing is more frustrating than being a 'bad' organist...the instrument demands the best.

But there is a lot to learn about in the meanwhile. Our TCAGO chapter website has a listing of most of the organs in and around the Twin Cities…with specifications and (often, though not always) pictures. This may answer many of your son's questions about 'what is in THAT church'.

For your own information, too, I suggest you talk with Laura Edman, who is dean of our local AGO chapter, and one of the people on our list of available teachers. She can give you more background on what might be best for your son. I've copied her on this email.

Teacher List is located here.

You can identify upcoming organ concerts in the area here, always a lot going on.

And, of course, if early Sunday morning is a bit of a test, you/he can listen here, where the two most recent programs are posted.

But hundreds of others, including some of the very earliest programs from 1982 and 1984, are available here.

Asking for tours is best done on a one-by-one basis, simply contacting the resident organist and inquiring as to best time. Or attend a concert or church service and ask afterwards.

Let me know how things turn out, and if you happen to see me at an organ concert, bring Reed over to say hello.



Dear Michael,

Thank you so much for your wonderful advice! We had the pleasure of going to Mahtomedi's St. Andrews Church for their Halloween organ concert and had a blast! It was so inspiring to watch the "action" along with knowing the songs.

Reed's first inspiration was from Animusic II (a PBS aired show years ago--my family has the DVD) and their composition "Pipe Dreams". He has been in love ever since--along with the electric guitar and rock music and actually points out organ in each classic rock tune (deep purple uses organ a lot for example).

He currently attends Basswood Elementary School in Maple Grove for full day kindergarten and has a very inspiring music teacher (they have music every other day) who in the first weeks of school taught them about Camille Saint-Saens and that he composed pipe organ music as a child. Imagine my surprise when having our after school snack and chat he announces to me that he knows all about Camille Saint-Saens! I had to google him just to make sure he was talking about the right person. I continue to learn from my child. :-)

I grew up on the piano with 11 years of lessons and my father plays as well (13 yrs of lessons). In all this discovery, I found out that my father too has had a passion for pipe organ! So, genetics must be in play here too. When Reed earns iPad time he uses his time looking up pipe organs sometimes. We have peeked at the pipedreams website on occasion too. Thank you for the links! It will help us narrow things down.

By the way, I want to let you know that my piano tuner is Ken Olson and I was making my tuning appointment with Lynn (his wife) when she shared with me her connection to you and suggested emailing you. She sends her regards. So thank you again for taking the time to help inspire this growing mind!


Therese & Reed Graf

A note from Laura Edman, Dean of the TCAGO

Dear Therese,

Thank you for the wonderful letter about Reed and his interest in pipe organs. Pipe organs and music are fascinating topics for young and old alike, and it is great that Reed has already discovered the variety of instruments that are available to explore in our area. Michael Barone has provided you with the best resources and starting points for exploring the topic, but please be sure to check out the Pipe Organ Discovery Day that is scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 9:30 - 3:00 at two churches in Minneapolis. Details are available on the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists website at tcago.org or on MPR's regional calendar. The Pipe Organ Discovery Day is geared to children and includes presentations about how the pipe organ works, demonstrations of organs and opportunities for children to play the organs. It is coordinated by Phil Asgian who does a great job with the children. Pizza is included for lunch.

Best wishes as you guide Reed's interest in the organ and feel free to contact me or any of the teachers listed on our website if you have further questions. I hope you are able to attend the event for children on February 16, and that we meet at some time in the future.

Laura Edman, Dean, TCAGO



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