Member Highlight

Bob and Carolyn Olson

Carolyn Olson

Interview with Carolyn Olson

Please tell us about your roots, background and education.

I was born and grew up in South Bend near Muessel School and earlier on Olive St., which is the same road on which we live now. I went to Kaley and Muessel Schools through eighth grade. In third grade, my music teacher Rita Seidler knew I was taking piano lessons and asked me to accompany her choir. I accompanied school choirs throughout my time at Central High School, as well.

My family was very musical. My parents were formed by living through the Great Depression. My father, Hugh Aughinbaugh, studied music at Indiana University–Bloomington, was proficient as a violinist, and had a real passion for music. He did other things to earn a living, but directed various church choirs. He wrote some sacred and patriotic choral music, also. My mother was a singer and loved to sing in my dad's choirs. She made sure that all her four children had music lessons. My brother Dean learned to play the trumpet.

I went to college at Bob Jones University (B.J.U.) in Greenville, South Carolina, and majored in Elementary Education. Then I taught at Muessel Elementary for two years and in Michigan for one year. During my time at B.J.U., I studied piano—it was free with our tuition—then in my senior year I studied organ along with piano. Looking back, I do wish I had been a music major!

Who introduced you to the organ?

I was introduced to the organ at Calvary Baptist Church on an electric Baldwin by Grace Farlow. She didn't teach the exact rudiments of classical organ technique and repertoire, but she wanted to pass on her enthusiasm and love for the instrument. I played there often through high school. The year of organ study at B.J.U. was formative and inspiring, but by then it was on to other things. Bob and I were married during my first year of teaching at Muessel. We had five children and now have 12 grandchildren, one great (really great!) grandchild and another one on the way.

When I was about 35, we lost a baby. Out of that trauma, I decided, with the encouragement of Bob and our children, to apply to study piano at Indiana University–South Bend. Dr. Demaree was on sabbatical and Michael Esselstrom was filling in. It took me from 1976 to 1983, studying a little at a time, to complete the degree while raising a family. I studied piano with John Owings and organ with Pat Leege, who taught me about Lutheran and other liturgical traditions that were previously unfamiliar to me.

Where have you played the organ in our area?

In 1973, our family was attending Trinity Evangelical Free Church on S. Miami St. and the service was more "liturgical," perhaps closer to Presbyterian. I began to play the organ there about 1975 and shared the organ bench with current SJVAGO Board Member Beverly Butler for 21 years. Things changed at the church and I began subbing at many churches in the South Bend area. In the past 20 years I have subbed and played quite regularly at Kern Road Mennonite and Church of the Savior, Christian Reformed, on N. Hickory.

Do you have any favorite composer for the organ? Any favorite instruments?

I never tire of playing Bach. Since learning about the wonders of the pipe organ, it is always so much less satisfying to have to play any other type. The fact that I have played many pipe organs in South Bend, and a little beyond (one in Morris, NY), has been special.

Can you share any memory from your time as an organist, and anything you've learned over the years?

One interesting wedding memory was when, thankfully, I had a good number of books with me and I had to play at least an extra hour while the grandmother who was coming from Chicago was delayed for some reason. It always helps to be well prepared for the unexpected!

When did you join our chapter? Are there any particular events we sponsored that stand out?

I joined the chapter in the '90's and served as treasurer after Tim Robinson, and then as an "at-large" member of the Board. There were many interesting and helpful presentations through the years, one in particular was not long ago: the presentation of a reed organ at Notre Dame. In addition, Bob and I always enjoyed hosting chapter members at our home for the annual end-of-year picnic. Some will remember sitting in the gazebo, sharing wonderful food, laughing a lot about our experiences as organists, and riding our trolley through our backyard.

Were you able to attend any Regional or National AGO Conventions? Have your pursued further studies and what inspires you to keep learning & growing as a musician?

In 2015, I finally was able to attend a National Convention in Indianapolis and found it very inspiring. Bob and I have attended as many organ and other types of concerts as we could through the years. The support of Bob has been a special gift through all these years. I took some organ lessons with chapter member Fred Hohman, and would recommend that other organists keep studying in whatever ways they are able.

And today? What has been your pandemic experience?

The pandemic has contributed to a slowdown of the playing I am able to do in the community. I am still playing now and then, but changes keep happening. Bob and I have managed to avoid the virus thus far. Let's keep it that way!

Any particular hopes/dreams you have for our chapter, going forward?

I do hope the chapter can return to the outreach we had to local piano students and introducing them to the organ. Fewer younger people are going to church, so it's harder for them to be inspired to learn the organ if they never hear one. Outreach is critically important. If the chapter can also keep meetings helpful and inspiring to our members, it will be good for the community.

Previous Member Highlights

October 2021–Carrie Bowie

Interview with Carrie Bowie

Tell us a bit about your family of origin. Where did you grow up? Did you have siblings? Did you grow up in a musical household?

I grew up in northern Mississippi in a family of five siblings. I am the middle child of four sisters and one brother. My mom and dad were very musical and used to sing duets together at church. All of us grew up playing musical instruments and singing.

How did you become an organist, and can you tell us a bit about your first organ teacher? Where did you study the organ in-depth?

I heard the organ as I was growing up in church, but didn’t get interested in lessons until I was in college. My first organ teacher was the organ professor at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. Wilma Jensen came to give a recital there and to recruit for her new school, Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, Tennessee, where I later did my master's work.

What different positions have you held as an organist? Have you served in different denominations, and if so, do you feel that contributed towards your development as an organist?

I have worked in many denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and now Roman Catholic. For 5 years I had a Wednesday night service at a Christian Scientist church here in South Bend. All of these different churches have added to my knowledge and experience.

How long have you been at Church of Loretto (South Bend), and can you tell us a bit about your job responsibilities there? Perhaps mention your assistant and how your divide up duties.

I have been with the Sisters of the Holy Cross for twenty-five years. I began as the assistant director and have the major keyboard duties on organ and piano. I became the Director of Liturgy in 2014, and since that time have had the assistant director do much of the conducting. We prepare everything for masses and other services in the church, from how the chairs are set up and preparing the music worship guides, to preparing scripts and instructions for liturgical ministers. Our office collaborates with Saint Mary’s College for some events and on their use of the Church of Loretto. We have a large community presence at our liturgies and work closely with the International Novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, as well as sisters who live all around the world. The office prepares prayers for special meetings for the Sisters, most notably for their general meeting every five years, which has taken me to Uganda and then India.

What type of organ do you have at Church of Loretto, and has it ever had modifications? If so, during what year and with which company?

The organ was originally a unit organ from the Moller Company. It was expanded and revoiced in 2001 by Berghaus Organ Company.

How did your work change this past year, and do you think any of the modifications to your job will continue this next year?

When the pandemic started, we found out that we could communicate with the sisters here on campus and across the world through making videos. I would record on a keyboard and then send the recording to my assistant and others who would add to the music recording. It was then mixed and put together with pictures and text. We put together prayer services and devotionals using art and seasonal prayers. We also assisted in producing Sunday Zoom liturgies that used music videos with contemporary pictures, the lectionary readings, and contemporary prayers and reflections by a lay-led community. This went on for 68 Sundays with a participation level of around 200 devices making the connection from local houses across the United States, and even some tuning in from Bangladesh and Brazil. We plan to continue some of the devotional videos as a tool for helping small groups pray together.

Was there any particular organ piece you played that made you want to study the organ further?

I really enjoyed working on Myron Roberts’s Prelude and Trumpetings.

Tell us a bit about your husband and children.

My husband, Scott Bowie, is ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church, and now pastors St. Peter’s United Church of Christ and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCS) here in South Bend. We have been married for thirty-seven years. Our son, John Hunter, who is thirty-one and recently married, is a chemical engineer who works out of Bellingham, Washington. Our daughter, Kate, who is twenty-nine, is working on her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

What excites/fulfills you about your current position?

It is ever-changing and ever-challenging to meet the needs and expectations of this congregation of Holy Cross Sisters. They appreciate music and they value Vatican II concepts in the worship life of the community. The Sisters' core values of justice, compassion, and hospitality are always on display.

As Sub-Dean of the St. Joseph Valley Chapter, why do you think it's important that our members get involved in chapter events?

Encouraging good music-making is always a satisfying endeavor! I believe we all need each other’s support and encouragement, especially in these times around the pandemic.

Since this is the Year of the Young Organist, do you have any advice for young organists just starting out in the profession?

Play for a lot of different events and things to get as much experience as you can!

July 2021–Shirley S. King, D.M.A.

Interview with Shirley S. King, D.M.A.

Dr. King, how did you discover your love for the organ and what fueled your desire to pursue music as a young person?

Music has always been an important part of my family’s life. My earliest memories of my mother playing a pump organ (harmonium) in our home in Africa generated my initial interest in music. I started piano lessons when I was eight when we lived briefly in Ohio. And I knew throughout high school (at Concord High School) that I wanted to be a serious musician.

How long did you live in Africa, and in what part? Were your parents missionaries?

My parents were Mennonite missionaries in what was the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was born there and lived there until I was thirteen.

Did the experience of living in Africa expand your appreciation of different types of music, and have you traveled back there since your early years?

I suspect African drumming gave me an unconscious awareness of and interest in rhythm. Although I never returned to Africa, my husband and I lived in Haiti as volunteers for three years. During those years, I convinced a young nightclub drummer to give me lessons on the Voodoo drums I had just acquired. He wasn’t easily convinced, saying “In Haiti, women don’t play drums, especially not white women!” Nevertheless, during my eleven lessons, I learned a number of patterns, but stopped when I could no longer distinguish the differences and my very simple attempts to notate patterns ended. As a college professor I taught a number of courses on World Music and always included African music and Haitian drumming.

Where did you study music in college?

When I got to college in Bluffton, Ohio, I expected to be a piano major, but thankfully after a year my piano prof encouraged me to consider the organ since “your hands are very small for much of the piano literature, you play Bach especially well, we have a fine Flentrop organ, and a wonderful organ professor.” After a semester of getting my brain reorganized to read three staves and my feet to think independently from my hands, I was really hooked! I followed that with two years at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cinncinati for my Masters in Organ. Seventeen years later, on my fortieth birthday, my husband asked me what I was going to do with the other half of my life, following up with, “why don’t you get that DMA you gave up to marry me” ... and so I did at the University of Kansas.

What was the subject of your dissertation?

Following my Fulbright Lectureship in Argentina I presented a lecture-recital on the two organ works of Alberto Ginastera during which I performed his second and last work VARIAZIONI e TOCCATA sopra “Aurora lucis rutilat” for Organ, Op. 52. Although the composer had died 7 years before, I had the good fortune to connect with his wife, a professional cellist, who described the work and gave me a copy of his hand manuscript. At that time the printed score was in process at Boosey & Hawkes (London) and I had the opportunity to be a part of the proofing of the galleys.

How long have you been a member of our chapter and what brought you to the area?

I have been an AGO member more than forty-five years in Kansas, Pennsylvania and now Indiana. During that time I have served in a variety of positions including as Dean and Sub-Dean, Regional Convention Coordinator, and National Secretary and Secretary-Treasurer. After retiring in 2014 we moved to Northern Indiana and I joined the St. Joseph Valley Chapter.

What music positions did you hold and where before your current one?

During my thirty-five years in academia I have been an organ professor and administrator at Bethel College (Kansas) and Dean of Academic Advising and College Organist at Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pensylvannia). I have also been privileged to have numerous wonderful church positions in a variety of denominations.

Tell us a bit about your current music position/duties/where you work.

I am basically retired but play at Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen when we are in town.

Are there any particular organ concerts or organs you've played that are particularly memorable?

As the Organist-Harpsichordist of the Wichita (Kansas) Symphony for twenty-six years I had opportunities to play a wide variety of ensemble literature. The most memorable experience was playing Saint-Saën’s’ "Organ Symphony" under the baton of Pierre Entremont. It was memorable because he invited me to the front of the stage at the end for an individual bow and, in the French tradition, a kiss. I went home and promptly polished my organ shoes for the second performance the next day!

Is there any organ repertoire you particularly enjoy playing or that you consider yourself a "specialist" in?

The music of Bach pulled me to the organ, and I have an enduring love and appreciation of his music.

Do you have any favorite hobbies, musical or otherwise?

I love to bake and cook and we enjoy entertaining family and friends, something we really missed during this past year with the pandemic, but with many new recipes I’m looking forward to these next months!

Since this is the "Year of the Young Organist," do you have any particular advice for young people interested in studying the organ and pursuing a career in sacred music/teaching?

I have never regretted my switch to organ! Find a fine teacher, practice hard and with discipline, and take advantage of whatever opportunities that come your way. There are a wide variety of paths in music and, based on my experience, it can be a most rewarding career and life.

Is there anything you'd like to share about your family?

I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive husband of fifty-two years, two sons and four grandsons! What an amazing and full life!