Messages from the Dean

Dear Friends of the Omaha AGO,

What are the benefits of the AGO? I imagine we all have slightly different answers to that question. It seems to me there are three major benefits, and when we plan our chapter objectives we should try to balance them about equally. 

The first major benefit is education. Chapter meetings can provide personal up close education, occasionally with master teachers. Practice techniques, organ construction, religion and the arts, the Italian organ, and lessons from fifty years of experience in the AGO are objectives that we have presented of the last two years. Our monthly TAO magazine provides material fro learning that we can peruse at our leisure. Listening to recitals attentively can teach us new ways to play music, and perhaps occasionally ways we don't want to play music. The Guild provides a certification process, where we can set goals, practice discipline, and receive acknowledgment for our attained skills. We also stive to educate the general public about our wonderful and sometimes quirky instrument, and that can be rewarding when we see others enjoying the organ we love.

The second major benefit is an opportunity for performance. Yes, many of us play regularly in church and have the opportunity there to perform for others. But, there is nothing quite like performing for one's peers to keep us on our toes. Our chapter over the years has proven to be quite non-competitive and sympathetic to differing backgrounds, training and goals found among out membership. So, our performances for each other need not be cutthroat, nerve wracking experiences, but opportunities to grow.

The third major benefit is an opportunity to get to know other organists in the area and learn about thier ideas, skill, and problems. We can encourage others and be encouraged by them. At our chapter social events we can relax an enjoy ourselves around people having a similar interest in the king of instruments. 

So, I hope over the years you have gotten these benefits from the Guild and will continue to receive them as we move forward. Have a good year!

David Schack

A Message from the Dean - March, 2014

A few weeks ago (2/13/2014) I was fired from First Lutheran Church, Omaha. I was given the option to call my dismissal an “honorable retirement,” but choosing that option would only mask from the congregation the fact that I was given the old heave ho. So, after 36 years at the console, I gave up my keys, packed my belongings in the cardboard boxes that were on hand for the occasion, and was escorted out the door. I co-existed with that current pastor for ten years, surprisingly enough, but things finally hit the wall.

“So, whatʼs your point?” you say. “Quit bellyaching. It could happen to any of us.”

The three manual Casavant in the church is not the best organ in town, but it is a fairly good one as organs go. It was installed around 1959, to serve as a worship instrument and for advancement of the musical arts. It still is in quite good shape, and was still used for one of the two Sunday services, although in recent months it was losing more and more ground to the amplied piano, even at that service. I sometimes think back to the people who paid for and installed the organ. They expected it toto be a long term gift for the service of God and the edication of the congregation. And I think of the powerful and wonderful congregational hymns that that instrument can lead. And I feel a responsibility to ght for the organ, for the best of hymns, for the occasional playing of Bach works, for good congregational singing, while trying to minimize the entertainment mentality. And so I was an annoying threat. I was thrown out, but thrown out of a place where I served at the whim of a pastor who thinks she can set the tempos of the hymns when she so desires. Park your musical sensibilities and liturgical knowledge at the door, and bow and scrape to the unmusical, yet dictatorial, pastor.

What should you do if you land in a situation like this? Should you throw in the towel and try to nd a place that might show you more respect as a worship musician? Or should you hang on as long as possible, trying to do whatever you can for the cause of worship, music, and the organ? I suppose it depends on a lot of factors: stress tolerance, nancial situation, the odds of causing damage to the congregation, the odds of causing damage to your sanity, how much you are invested in preserving some of the tradition of the denomination, what indignities you are willing to put up with to have a chance to play on a nice organ. There is no one answer. As members of the AGO it is our desire to further the highest degree of organ and choral arts. As human beings it is our desire to make a living, minimize emotional stress, and avoid losing friends. We sometimes have to choose, and there is often not a clear-cut answer. And sometimes the choice is made for us.

David Schack

Dean, Omaha Chapter AGO