My Background Information
When I did get my piano, I was very disappointed at first, because it didn’t play by itself like the one in my class. I soon found out that it would take a lot of learning and practicing to be able to play the piano, after I started taking lessons. However, when I finally learned the fundamentals, I couldn’t keep away from the piano. I would excitedly run home from school everyday and play my favorite pieces. The piano had taken over my life, and I loved it.
As a teenager, I would lull my father to sleep on Sunday afternoons playing the hymns. I would imagine that I was playing the organ for church like our ward organists at that time—Robert Manookin and Verena Hatch. Eventually, I got the opportunity to play a small organ for Junior Sunday School and the piano for MIA. When I was 10, I even played a short hymn for Sacrament Meeting during the Primary Presentation. That was probably the most frightening experience of my young life, as I tried in vain to keep my nervous leg from jiggling on the pedal as I played. I remember the tremendous sense of relief when I was finished.
While attending BYU, I was asked to accompany a male quartet, who sang for various church and college activities around the county and state. I also played background music for a BYU fashion show, as well as served as Relief Society pianist and substituted for Sacrament Meeting for my BYU ward.
When I got married in 1970, I missed not being able to play as much, since I didn’t have access to a piano. My parents told me that once we got our own home, I could have the piano. So, I was left piano-less.
When my oldest child was a baby, I was called to be the Stake Relief Society organist—although I told them I didn’t know how to play the organ. The Stake Relief Society president said that I could play the piano for our meetings until I did learn how to play the organ, and suggested that I contact our ward organist, Douglas Bush, to get help. The thought of playing the organ scared me to death. It seemed like such a complicated instrument to play, and so, because of my fears and also because of the demands of having a new baby, I didn’t take organ lessons at that time.
Later, when my oldest children were small and we were living in an apartment, I would walk with them (we didn’t have a car at the time) to my parent’s home to practice for Primary, since I was the pianist--a position I held in different wards for about 12 years.
In 1981, when I was expecting my fourth child, I was asked by our stake if I’d like to take a six-week organ course. My first thought was to turn down the offer, but then a little voice told me to tell them I would take the course. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I had no way to practice, since I couldn’t get into the church to practice. So, I got creative. I made myself a “pedalboard” out of paper strips and placed them on the floor. The only keyboard I had was my daughter’s toy organ that she got for Christmas, which only had about an octave and a half. So, after placing the “organ” on our kitchen table, I would practice with one hand and then the other, and then try to get my feet to hit the right strips of paper on the floor. I was determined to learn how to play the organ.
When the course started, there were about 7-8 of us. When the course ended, there were only two of us who stuck it out. I went to D.I.’s to find some kind of shoes I could use to wear to play the organ. They weren’t the best, but they worked.
As part of the course, we were to play for Sacrament Meeting. This was a terrifying moment for me, and brought back my fears as a ten year old, but my teacher, Geoffrey Myers, quoted the scripture to me that “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” This helped. I have always tried to apply that principle.
I learned a lot from that course, but I wasn’t given the opportunity to play the organ for six years. Then in 1987, when Douglas Bush was in our stake presidency (this was ironically in a different stake than the other one where he was our ward organist), the new Bigelow tracker organ was installed in our chapel through his efforts.
Since our organist had moved, I was first called to be ward organist in January of 1987, before the organ was completely installed. There was just a huge whole in the wall. I felt that this would be a temporary situation, and that after the organ was completed, a real organist would be called. That never happened.
At the time, my husband and I began playing background music for weddings. He plays the acoustic guitar, and I played our Casio, which at the time we thought had great sounds. Wanting to provide a better sound in Sacrament Meeting than just using a piano since the organ hadn’t been finished, we got the permission of the bishop for me to play my Casio using the organ sound. One Sunday, a member of the bishopric came up and asked me if this was the new organ. I just kinda chuckled inside.
As I watched, week after week, the Bigelow tracker organ being completed, I became acutely aware of the responsibility that was soon to be upon me, and I was overwhelmed. It was a beautiful instrument, and I knew the expectations were high from the members in my ward to play it well, because of the sacrifice they and other stake members had made to raise funds to build it. After not touching an organ for more than six years, I could hardly remember which pedal was which, let alone know how to use the stops.
Therefore, feeling very inadequate in my calling, I sought to
upgrade my skills. I was fortunate to meet Carol Dean, who became my organ
teacher. She eventually encouraged me to become a member of the Utah Valley
Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Starting in 1990, I began serving
as Secretary / Newsletter Editor and now maintain the chapter website. Through my association with AGO, I have
been able to meet many wonderful organists.
Also, for only $10.00, you can download a copy of my booklet titled, “Resource List for Organists: Arrangements and Free Accompaniments of Hymns in the LDS Hymnal,” at this link: http://www.ldsorganists.info/2009_booklet.htm. You can also order a hard copy of the booklet for $25.00 at the same link.
I hope this web site will be a helpful resource for you.