why i built an organ in our spare bedroom (must read!)

why i built an organ in our spare bedroom (must read!)

I just noticed this post is scheduled for my mom's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

I've waited for this post since I started this blog. I was waiting for a critical mass of people actually reading it!

If you've perused my favorite page on my entire site (the one with all my organ performances, linked below) you may have noticed the last entry–the only one without an associated video.

my organ performances
Click the subscribe button at the bottom of the page to support my work and get an email every time I make a new post! In the meantime, enjoy me on the organ! Variations on Amazing GracePrelude and Fugue in G MajorWhat a Friend We Have in JesusThe Prodigal SonThe

If you're okay with listening to the piece I composed without any context, click the button below. Otherwise, I really recommend going to the "my music" page to read the description and context. It's based on the first section of one of my favorite books of all time and I composed it assuming that you've read the description.

click here to listen to my first performance on my homemade organ!

Do you know the coolest part about that performance? I performed it on an organ that I built in our spare bedroom!

how this crazy story started

Those who know me from high school know that I was a pretty intense bassoonist. I played for one year in college, and it was incredibly fun! But I quickly became disenchanted with large ensembles of differing commitment levels and rehearsal schedules that didn't align with my study time.  

Since I didn't really see a future as a freelance bassoon soloist, I tried to sign up for piano lessons at Rice (at least then I wouldn't be expected to carry my own instrument!), but every lesson was already booked. I happened to see that the organ had lots of open lessons and thought, "What the heck! It has a keyboard so it must basically be like a piano." Boy, was I wrong... but that's a post for another time.

finding the time

For those unfamiliar with the instrument, organs tend to be quite stationary. Much like mainframe computers of the past, they often take up entire rooms–sometimes even multiple rooms! Another similarity they have to mainframe computers is that you have to sign up for a time slot to actually use them because they're shared with all the other organists in the area.

Here are some really cool organs I've been able to play since I started (all these images are my own). I've also given a link to read a little more about each organ if you'd like:

edyth bates old grand organ

Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall and Grand Organ | The Shepherd School of Music

markham organ studio

Pipe Organ Database | Orgues Létourneau Ltée (Opus 34, 1993) Baylor University
The Pipe Organ Database is the definitive compilation of information about pipe organs in North America.

poalmer memorial episcopal church organ

The organ at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, TX
Projects - Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church pipe organ by Robert I. Coulter - Organbuilder
Overview of the Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church organ project by Robert I. Coutler - Organbuilder, pipe organ construction, repair, and service.

rice memorial chapel organ

A pedal solo from my YouTube channel on the Rice Memorial Chapel's organ
Centennial Series: The Chapel Organ
When the Rice Memorial Center was being planned and built in 1957, Rice alumnus and Board of Governors member J. Newton Rayzor was concerned that the new stu...

south main baptist church sanctuary organ

And finally, probably the most familiar organ to me and those who know me:

About Our Organ
Organ music has been an important ingredient in worship at South Main since 1934, when the original Sanctuary pipe organ was installed. In 2014, on the advice of several nationally recognized organ builders, South Main began the process of rebuilding the organ, enlarging the resonating chambers, and…

moving down the pipeline

Now, all those organs are amazing, but I really wanted to have something I could play at home, any time of day, without having to schedule around other people (otherwise, I was in exactly the same situation as I was in the symphony)! In fact, while at Rice, I practiced organ from 5:00 to 7:00 AM every day simply so I could have two uninterrupted hours in a row.

There was a very awkward time in the life of church organs where pipes were not the only option, but they were the only good one. I am not an elitist at all; in fact, I would often rather play on a nice electronic organ than poorly maintained pipes. However, electronic organs have improved exponentially (according to Moore's law) and the results today are absolutely astounding! Since I have a whole engineering degree sitting on my shelf, I figured it was about time to put it to something useful!

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In my next organ-themed post, I'll tell you all about how I built my very own virtual pipe organ in our spare bedroom and how I'm still working on it to this day!

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