Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice

Posted by: Thomas Williams

Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice - 07/19/10 02:40 PM

OK, so I've recently finished college and moved back to my parents' house (for the time being). I have a church organist position in a town that entails quite a commute every Sunday, so I can't go to my church to practice every day. I've been trying to find places near home to practice, but I am acquainted with very few serious church musicians in my home area. I live in rural GA, where there are many churches, but in an area where organs aren't fully appreciated by the average church. (Old electronic "spinet organs" are common in churches in my neighborhood, and finding a pipe or digital console fit for practicing seems to mean a trip of at least 10 miles to town.) I've contacted many people who are friends of my former teachers, or who have been suggested by the few contacts that I do have, in my attempts to locate organs on which I can practice during the week in the towns near my residence. But I seem to have a problem.

One of my organist friends with whom I attended college (he lives in another town a couple of hours away) has told me he's never had any problem getting access to church organs for practice. He makes finding a place to practice sound so easy. But many of the churches I've contacted (even with references from other musicians who know me) have given responses indicating that they are unwilling or hesitant to allow someone other than their own organist to practice on their instrument. If I were still in my college town I wouldn't have this problem, because I have plenty of contacts there, and used to sub in several churches there. But I know only one church organist (for whom I have subbed) in a town near my home, and even with him as a reference, I've been having problems getting access to other organs on which to practice. (His own church has been undergoing renovations and their organ in storage for a couple of months, hence the reason I don't currently have access there.) I've been talking to one person after another and seem to be in the process of gaining access to one or two church organs, but even in cases where I know supportive ministers, it has been a slow and annoying process.

Does anyone else have any such experiences to share? Any suggestions?
Posted by: josephinechang

Re: Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice - 07/19/10 02:59 PM

Finding an instrument in a rural area that is within a 10-mile radius of your home is going to be tricky, that's for sure. Maybe try being open to traveling a bit further. It's always kinda funny to hear people from non-commuter areas say that anything more than a 10 minute drive is far! In L.A., I think the average commute to work is 30 minutes. Far for us is more like a couple hours =P We often have to drive for an hour to places--not because of distance, but because of traffic.

Chin-up, Sir Thomas! There will be a solution, though maybe a more difficult one than you would like. I once had a pianist friend who went all the way through her Masters degree without a personal piano! As a kid, she would commute half an hour to the nearest available piano for practice! It can be done! (If you are nutty enough :P)
Posted by: Thomas Williams

Re: Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice - 07/20/10 10:53 AM

Haha, I'm surely nutty. I do have access to organs 40-50 minutes away (via mostly open highway driving), but I know there are at least a couple of pipe organs and a few more digitals in churches only half as far. It looks like I will soon have easy access to one of those, but I would have no doubt have an easier time getting to practice wherever I wanted if I knew the organists (and not just a reference person with some distant connection). Or better yet, if I'd had an opportunity to fill in somewhere near my home in the past. (That's been my previous experience.)

I suppose I need to follow the advice of my organist friend who never had a problem gaining access to organs in his hometown, LOL:

"Try my technique, the first time you practice at a new church, play hour loudest, fastest, most impressive pieces and they'll be 'honored' for you to practice on their organ." It'll just be a matter of gaining access that first time and then taking full advantage. But I'd better still have something pretty impressive under my fingers/feet.... :-P
Posted by: apple*

Re: Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice - 07/26/10 08:48 AM

i don't know.. I suppose one would have to be diplomatic and offer to exchange services.. perhaps play a rental fee.

i was fortunate to have some space and a few hundred dollars and bought an ancient Allen to practice on. Getting into my church was soooo hard.

best of luck to you.
Posted by: Thomas Williams

Re: Difficulty with accessing an organ for practice - 08/06/10 06:05 PM

Having something to practice on at home must be nice, even if it's just an old Allen.

Well, I eventually did manage to get approval to use the organs of two churches in the nearest town - both within about 10 miles or so -- in one case it was because a minister I happened to know just started working at one of those churches. One is a really crappy OLD Allen theater-style organ - with some basic functions not working properly. But at least it's sufficient for keeping notes under my hands and feet! The other has a pretty recent Rodgers -- again, not a pipe organ, but it's fine for practice.

Almost no sooner had I managed to work these things out, however, than I have made the decision to move back to my college town -- I've been offered a position as a staff accompanist there....which will be AWESOME! Not only will I have nice work in my field, but I have plenty of connections there already -- should have much trouble finding places to practice. And I'll be closer to my long-distance church gig.

:-)