Thanks to the miracle of the Internet and Facebook, I was able to catch a glimpse of my former student, Joey Fala, at the Yale commencement ceremonies held last week as he was granted a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance. I had the same feelings as when my husband and I held our newborn son thirty-four years ago, and I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “WE DID THIS!” —feelings of pride, accomplishment and pure joy.
Too many people give me credit for being Joey’s first teacher, but it took the proverbial “village” to bring to life young Joey’s dream of being an organist when I first met him when he was a fifth-grader at Iolani School and used to sit near the organ console to hear me practice before chapel. Here are some of the people I would like to thank who helped Joey in his journey:
Margaret Lloyd, who played the organ at Holy Nativity School where Joey first heard the sounds of a pipe organ as a preschooler. Years later she hired him as the Organ Scholar of Central Union Church and encouraged him to play for services.
John McCreary, former Organist of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, who came to substitute at Iolani School when Joey was in fourth grade, and gave him his first opportunity to see an organist up close, arms and legs flying in all directions.
Cindy Scheinert, Joey’s fifth-grade homeroom teacher, who first made me aware of his passion for the instrument, and told me that every homework assignment, whether it was math, or history, or English, or science, or social studies, somehow had the organ in it!
Norma Chun, Joey’s classroom music teacher, who told me that Joey had taught himself how to play the organ on a neighbor’s home instrument and encouraged him to meet me for an audition. It was then that he told me he was going to play the “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” for me, and played the first three pages of it using both feet! More astounding was the fact that he had downloaded the score from the internet, which in those days, was in its infancy.
The Hawaii Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Morning Music Club, who provided scholarships to Joey in the first three years of organ study. The Hawaii AGO members have been some of Joey’s most ardent supporters.
Barbara Adler, my long-time organist friend, who gave Joey a few lessons and introduced him to the local American Guild of Organists when he moved to Troy, NY to study architecture.
Christian Lane and Alfred Fedak, who coached Joey during his college years and kept encouraging him to continue to play the organ while he pursued Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in architecture.
Gary Loughrey, who met Joey at that AGO meeting in New York and became his calabash “uncle,” helping him in so many ways. He not only helped Joey move to New Haven when he was accepted at Yale, but will also fly him to Durham, NC in Joey’s move to a new position as Organ Scholar at Duke University. Gary retired as a professional airline pilot but also is interested in organs and organbuilding.
Martin Jean and Thomas Murray, professors of organ at Yale University, who took a risk on admitting Joey Fala to the graduate program, a student without a bachelor’s degree in music, and molded him into the consummate musician he is today.
I am sure that there are many others to credit, but we must not forget Joey’s pure determination and passion, not to mention his enormous talent, for playing the King of Instruments which has led him to today.
I am also happy to announce that Joey will be back home this summer to play three more concerts in Hawaii before he assumes his responsibilities at Duke University:
Saturday, July 8, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Kula, Maui, 6:30 pm, Oberlinger organ.
Saturday, July 15, Kawaiaha’o Church, Honolulu, 7:00 pm rededicates its recently refurbished Aeolian-Skinner organ.
Sunday, July 23, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Kailua, 4:00 pm, continues its organ series on its recently renovated J. W. Walker organ.