On this page, we hear the experiences of some of the youth who attended Pipe Organ Encounter 2016 in Salt Lake City. We are inspired by their youthful enthusiasm and passionate musicianship.
I never really had a thing for the organ until one day when my piano teacher, Mike Carson, was practically dancing around the room, because he had found a flier for scholarship auditions on the organ. I had been working with him toward playing in sacrament meetings for about a year. Organ lessons were once a month, but I didn’t feel very much commitment.
The audition itself was quite a learning experience for me, but to hear that I had won a scholarship to a week-long organ camp in Salt Lake City, well, I was quite stunned. I thought it was a very strange thing to do, but it just hung in the back of my consciousness the whole summer. I really didn’t much look forward to it.
Well, the time came when it was no longer just some distant thing I would be doing, because my bags were packed, and I was in a car driving up to Salt Lake City. Soon my mom was waving goodbye to me as I walked to the U of U dorms by myself. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. It seemed so strange. Would I make friends here? What kinds of experiences would I have? Would I enjoy it? Would I be the only kid that hadn’t had Toccata and Fugue in D minor memorized since they were five? I felt very uncertain of myself. It’s funny, though, how the greatest experiences you ever have can be very unexpected. They can be found in places you never suspect. And that’s what happened to me.
My time at the POE was phenomenal. Never before had I felt such an admiration for this instrument. It inspired my musicianship in a way I would never have predicted. Inside of me that week, there was a burning desire to become something greater with the talents I have. I felt like I was being introduced to a whole new, beautiful world, like the way you feel sometimes when you watch a sunset or when someone smiles at you on a gloomy day. I was being introduced not just to the organ, but to the beauty of music and worship and passion. There was much more out there than I ever thought.
I met so many amazing friends. When I would mess up on a piece, they would talk about how perfectly I’d done it. We all laughed very hard together and made a lot of memories. I even enjoyed immensely the teachers and chaperones that I met while I was there. I couldn’t believe how attached I felt to everyone when I had to leave. Funny how you can love someone so much, when really you’ve only known him or her for such a little time.
So, yes, I really did think going to an organ camp was a little weird in the beginning, and yet I’m so glad I did. I loved it more than I ever thought I would. Whatever may happen to me in my life or whatever I may accomplish, I’ll always remember the amazing experience I had that one week in July when I went to organ camp.
Organ camp was a great experience; I met a bunch of new friends and played on about seven organs.
On Tuesday, the second day of camp, we went to the Mormon Tabernacle and the Conference Center, and we got to play on the organs at each. They were five-manual organs with 5,000+ pipes. We also played on the three-manual organ at St. Ambrose Catholic Church. We met our teachers, who were all really cool, and we practiced every day in various locations around Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday we went to the Bigelow organ factory in American Fork, and got a tour of the facilities and learned how pipe organs are made. They make tracker organs. We went to BYU and got a tour of the music department and had a master class with Dr. Don Cook, who is the director of the organ program at BYU. He also performed a Carillon recital for us and let us play on the Carillon.
On Thursday, we went to the Joseph Smith Memorial building and had a master class with Dr. Clay Christiansen, one of the Mormon Tabernacle organists. We went to a concert at the Tabernacle to hear Richard Elliot, who is the principal organist for the Tabernacle Choir, and got to talk to him a bit afterwards. That evening we went to the Tabernacle Choir rehearsal and to the Cathedral of the Madeleine and played the organ there.
On Friday, we went to First United Methodist Church and played on the organ there. That evening we had our recital at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, and I played a piece out of The First Organ Book called Finale by Janet Corell. Both Dr. Cook and Dr. Christiansen were at the recital, and performing for them was really awesome!
This event was a wonderful and life-changing experience. Many of the organs and sites we saw were things that most people would never see and could end up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thank you to the Utah Valley chapter of the AGO for organizing this for all of us!
When we got the list of POEs all around the country, I saw there was one in Salt Lake City this year. I didn’t even think twice and asked my parents if I could go to that one.
During a visit to Salt Lake City, when I was about seven, we went to Temple Square and the Conference Center, and I was in awe of the organs. Their sight stayed in my mind for a long time and I think that’s what made me decide to play this instrument a few years later.
One of my favorite things during the week was touring a lot of organs, especially at Temple Square. We not only got to play the Conference Center organ but also went behind the scenes. This is probably as exciting as playing, to see how it is made. We also got to play the Tabernacle organ after listening to a recital by Clay Christiansen. After that we visited the Assembly Hall organ and got to play it too. For me it was like a dream come true! We didn’t stop there, and during the week continued on with the organ in the chapel of the Joseph Smith building, Cathedral of the Madeleine, St. Ambrose Catholic Church and the First United Methodist Church. I like how they all have their own “personality” and how the same piece can have a different feel depending on the organ. We also had the chance to play a Carillon on the BYU campus, and we had so much fun with it that I’m pretty sure people within earshot of it were wondering what was happening up there!
I also enjoyed all the master classes, where we learned new techniques, how to improve, registration, and get the best out of an organ. Same with the visit to the organ builder, Bigelow, in American Fork. Seeing how an organ is made helps you understand how it works, how the sounds are formed, and it is fascinating.
To take a break from all these musical activities, we went to the BYU Creamery for some ice cream. Given the heat, it was a very welcome visit! During the week we also performed a variety show filled with fun performances, including my bad chemistry jokes.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. I learned many new things about the organ, such as different ways to learn hymns, articulation techniques, and more. I made new friends, too. The teachers, organizers, and chaperones/drivers, were all very nice and patient in dealing with our crazy bunch. Of all the organ camps I have attended so far, this has been the best! I also learned that I should bring Chapstick with me to Utah during the summer.