Ever since we returned home from Boston, I have been working with Joey Fala on the PipeWorks event, to be held on Saturday, July 9th starting at 11 am. Please check out my posting, “From generation to generation,” on the details of the July 9th program. Joey says most of us organists “got in through the back door,” meaning that we heard about the organ by knowing people who know other people. For myself, I had never heard a pipe organ until I went for my first organ lesson at age thirteen at the First Methodist Church in Hollywood, CA. And that came about when my parents asked the local school board for a recommendation for an organ teacher. (I wonder if Hawaii’s Board of Education would even know where to look for an organ teacher!)
Why are we holding this workshop? According to Joey, it’s a simple answer. It’s because there is a shortage of organists today and it’s important that we keep the art of organ playing alive. Joey writes, “For centuries, the pipe organ has held its place as the “king of instruments”—Even in today’s world with all its sophisticated new technology, we’re still building pipe organs the same way organbuilders did in the middle ages. This shows that the pipe organ has some kind of power, authority and magic that nothing else is capable of matching. Not only is the organ valuable in a sense of music and mechanics, but in faith as well. Organists minister to people through music of the pipe organ. So ensuring that there are organists for tomorrow is important to the future of the church.” (Wow, Joey, that’s a pretty powerful statement!)
In looking at my career as an organ teacher, I would have to say that more children are interested in the organ than ever before. Years ago I only taught college-age students or older and it was not until 1993 that my first young person, Cindy Matsuura, started the organ at age 11. (I am now teaching her cousin, Miki Yamamoto, who will be helping out in the PipeWorks program). In the year 2000 I was introduced to the teaching materials published by Wayne Leupold who advocated that the organ could be taught as a first instrument, rather than a second. The conventional wisdom has been that students need to learn to play the piano first. But Leupold contends, “Bach never played the piano first!”
Since then, I have started children as early as the age of four on the basics of music, using the pipe organ as the teaching instrument. One of those original four-year-olds is still playing today at the age of 12, and another of my students who started with me as a first-grader is today playing the major preludes and fugues of Bach, also at age 12. In fact, I think I much prefer to start children on the organ first so I can teach them note-reading, rhythm and how to play legato.
If you know of a young person who might be interested in attending this half-day event, please contact me right away. Free lunch!