My first organ teacher

Norman Soreng Wright, my first organ teacher.

Norman Söreng Wright, my first organ teacher.

The Internet surely has been a vehicle of communication between people far and wide. I can’t tell you the number of people that have found my blog (well, yes, I can–to date there have been close to 200,000 hits on this site!) and I have reconnected with people I knew decades ago but have lost track.

The last few days, though, I have corresponded with Duanna R. Ulyate, someone I have never met, but who apparently found one of my posts: Marcel Dupré, organist extraordinaire. You may recall that my first organ teacher was Norman Söreng Wright of the Hollywood First Methodist Church –my parents had found him by asking the local school board who taught organ lessons in the area. Dr. Wright had been a student of Marcel Dupré for six years in the early 1920s, and sent one of his students to Paris for lessons with “the maître” every year. My turn came in the summer of 1968.

Anyway, Duanna wrote: “I so enjoyed your article ‘Marcel Dupre, organist extraordinaire.’ I studied with Dr. Wright end of Jr. High and High School and even into college–studied voice and piano and a little organ. I grew up in the church and Dr. Wright was my mother’s voice teacher.”

Dr. Wright (left) and Marcel Dupre.

Dr. Wright (left) and Marcel Dupré.

Duanna’s husband just now sent me scans of a booklet the church published in 1951, called Words of Music. For years, I had looked in vain  all over the Internet for a picture of Dr. Wright and never found one, so I am just thrilled to see for the first time, pictures of Dr. Wright and Marcel Dupré. The photo above of Dr. Wright was taken while he was quite a bit younger. When I studied with him, he had grey hair and looked a lot less scary than he does in the picture above. But I do remember the goatee. You can’t believe how I am feeling now to see Dr. Wright again after forty-six years! Quite frankly, I had forgotten what he looked like, but now my memory has been revived. I did a Google search for his obituary and found out that he was born in Minnesota on January 29, 1905 and died on January 3, 1982 in Santa Barbara. I wrote earlier that he lived in Montecito, nearly 90 miles away from his church job, but had an apartment at the church where he stayed every weekend.

When I started organ lessons at age thirteen, you may recall it was because I and my two sisters were sick of taking piano lessons and we collectively went to our parents and asked to quit. But instead of letting us quit, my mother suggested that we change to another instrument, and for some unknown reason, I chose the organ, not really knowing what it was all about, and never even having heard a pipe organ. But the magic and power of the pipe organ won me over, and has carried me through all these fifty plus years hence! And you won’t believe how Dr. Wright taught me organ technique: by systematically assigning me every single piece in Marcel Dupré‘s Seventy-Nine Chorales for Organ.

Here is a letter that Marcel Dupré wrote on behalf of my teacher, Dr. Norman Söreng Wright.

Letter from Marcel Dupre on behalf of Norman Soreng Wright.

Letter from Marcel Dupre on behalf of Norman Soreng Wright.

You can also click here to see the letter that Dupré wrote on my behalf.

And here is a picture of the choir of the Hollywood First Methodist Church with both Dr. Wright and Marcel Dupré.

The choir of the Hollywood First Methodist Church with Dr. Wright and Marcel Dupre.

The choir of the Hollywood First Methodist Church with Dr. Wright and Marcel Dupré.

Go back and read my post about our driving past the Hollywood First Methodist Church a few years ago and all the memories that evoked.

Thanks for a trip down memory lane.



About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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8 Responses to My first organ teacher

  1. John Alexander says:

    Fascinating to read about your past musical connections and their wide reach! Your blog never disappoints!

  2. Therese Holladay says:

    Dear Katherine
    I saw Duanna’s name in this blog which jogged my memories of Dr Wright as my first voice teacher in Santa Barbara in the early 1970s. I remember Duanna was one of his accomplished young college age students, myself being in high school at that time. At that time, he was the music director at the Mission Santa Barbara and many of his students including myself made up part of the the choir. Some voice students from Los Angeles including up and coming opera singers came to sing with that church choir on special occasions. Dr Wright expected great things from the Mission choir and introduced me to oratorios. At 15 years old, I remember rehearsing and singing in the Faure’ Requeim concert at the Old Mission accompanied by the young and very talented organist David Potter. It was a thrilling experience and everytime I sing an oratorio to this day I thank God for that. I still have a couple of the albums the Mission choir made under Dr Wright’s baton. He asked me whether I wanted to attend Julliard which I had no idea was a premier school for singers. I told him I was going to be a veterinarian. I remember him being disappointed but I kept taking lessons and eventually came back to opera later in life. Dr Wright was a wonderful musician who influenced many singers in the LA and Santa Barbara area. I believe he had conducted at the Hollywood Bowl and wrote an oratorio called King David?
    Thank you for posting your experiences
    Therese Holladay

    • Marion Cain says:

      I have the entire oratorio from the Hollywood Bowl production which my uncle Norman S Wright wrote and conducted!! I wish it could be published and again performed!! The score and all parts are stored by me — hoping someone would be interested in it. Marion Wright Cain

  3. Chris Trost says:

    Dear Katherine.

    I am thrilled to find you while researching my (Great) Uncle Norman. I have many photos and memories of him that I’m willing to share with you, if you’re interested. And I’m sure you know things of him that would be new to me. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    Chris Trost

  4. Michelle Williams Cain says:

    Norman Wright is my Mothers uncle. We have a painting of him. We also have his albums. My brother was named for him. Harvey Cain.

  5. Zoltan Majer says:

    Dear Katherine,

    I often read your experiences and stories.
    I am really interested in Marcel Dupré’s life and music, and I am collecting documents and photos of him to my private collection. Can you help me in this please?

    Contact me in email:

    Best regards,
    Zoltán Májer

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