Will is preparing for three organ auditions at three different schools in the next few weeks. He wrote some things for recently for school about why organ was such a passion in his life, and I thought I would share it.
I began piano and violin lessons at age five, percussion when I was twelve, and finally organ before my freshman year of high school. I have spent hours daily practicing one instrument or another for almost 10 years now. I didn’t particularly enjoy the piano, violin or percussion, but when I began playing the organ, I was instantly hooked. In fact, I was so enthralled with it that I quit both violin and percussion soon after, so I could give more time to my new favorite instrument. 3 ½ years later, my passion for the organ has only grown.
Thanks to my background in piano, the learning curve into the organ was not difficult. My teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner, is an excellent organist who studied in Europe with some of the world’s greatest organ names, including Flor Peeters and Jean Langlais. In my early days of playing, she provided me a solid technical foundation by demanding excellence in rhythm, articulation, and musical details. She never allowed sloppiness or shortcuts in fingering or pedaling—her attention to detail allowed me to progress very quickly into more difficult repertoire, and instilled in me a clean, exciting style of playing.
After only a year of lessons, I was presented with my first performing opportunities. Sister Mary Jane had me play several pieces at a weekly concert in October 2011. This performance taught me many lessons about mental preparation for playing—I learned (the hard way) that forgetting to change from dress shoes to organ shoes can lead to trouble in playing the pedals. In January 2012, I also played a joint concert with Mr. John Weissrock at Gesu Parish—performing on the 115 rank Schantz organ, one of the finest in the Midwest. It was a truly memorable experience.
In January of 2012, Sister Mary Jane told me about a position at a local Lutheran Church—I played about 36 Sunday morning services there throughout 2012, experience that truly transformed my playing. Suddenly, I was forced to have new preludes, postludes, offering pieces, liturgy and hymns ready every week. I became adept at mastering pieces quickly, accompanying a congregation, and acting in a professional manner throughout that year of habitual performance.
In March of 2013, I participated in the American Guild of Organists’ RCYO Competition. It was my first experience playing in competition, and it was incredibly good for me. I had to make appropriate registrations for my pieces on an unfamiliar organ in a limited amount of time, and be ready to perform after only a few hours of preparation on that organ. Although I finished 3rd of the 3 contestants, I got high scores from the 3 judges in the competition, and great insights from all of them.
To me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating, satisfying, or profoundly communicative as playing the pipe organ. From the moment I first played an organ, I knew it was the instrument my soul most resonated with—that it reflected who I am better than anything else.”
Here’s a little clip of Will at Gesu Parish this last week playing a movement of Louis Vierne’s First Symphony, a piece he is playing for auditions. The clip is only three minutes, but it expresses the full power and excitement of the instrument Will loves!