My name is Heidi Bender and in 2009 I decided to become an organist. This was much more of an undertaking than I ever imagined. It has taken a lot of persistence. I am continuing to take lessons to increase my skill to become employable as a church organist.
In this blog, I share about my experiences with the organ and hope to provide a little inspiration to those that feel “too old” to start something new. My route to becoming an organist was atypical. I started lessons at the age of 33 and continue to study (and practice) in my living room. Most organists begin lessons when they are young and some go on to earn degrees in the organ. Read more about how I decided to become an organist here.
This blog will document how my life continues to be impacted by my pursuit of the organ. I also hope you will learn something new about the pipe organ, organists, and organ music (and perhaps, cats!). To subscribe to receive posts via email, enter your email into the subscribe box on the right side of this page.
Since starting this blog, I’ve struggled a bit to define my audience. Is it other organists? People looking for inspiration? Currently, it is a mix of both. I thank you for reading. Please feel free to use the contact page if there is a topic you’d like to see on this blog.
I will also include photos and stories of my cats from time to time. Sometimes my cats visit me when I am on the organ bench when I practice on my Saville electronic organ.
I am currently employed as a full-time data manager (this does not mean data entry). I’ve been married to Ted since 2002 and we have eight indoor cats and three outdoor semi-feral cats. I learned how to do Trap-Neuter-Returen in 2017, so they are all fixed!
In 2018, I started with Marijim and appreciate all the years that Michael helped me on my journey!
My Current Teacher – Marijim Thoene
Marijim received a B.M. degree in Liturgical Music from Peabody Conservatory, an M.M. in Organ Performance from the University of Southern California and a M.M and D.M.A. in Church Music/Organ Performance from the University of Michigan. She has also studied at Queen’s College and University College in Oxford, the Organ Academy in Pistoia, Italy and at the University of Salamanca. She has been director of music at churches in Baltimore, Oxfordshire, San Diego, Ann Arbor and New Orleans, and has been on the faculty at the University of New Orleans, and Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans.
My First Teacher – Michael Gartz
Michael Gartz was my teacher from September 2009 – early 2018. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Organ Performance from Eastman School of Music. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Organ and Choral Accompanist at Bowling Green State University. He is also the organist at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Toledo, OH and for the Canterbury Singers USA. Michael is an incredibly patient teacher and I am thankful that he continues to provide me with lessons.
11 thoughts on “About”
I found your blog searching for thoughts on organ shoes. I played in Capezios for years and years until I blew them out 20+ years ago. I am about to go read your thoughts on Organ Masters et. al. I haven’t used dedicated organ shoes, and most days simply wear my dress shoes.
Best to you. Not that I know her well, but Maryjim Thoene replaced me at my previous parish in 2000, when I took my current position. Small world.
I have formed a goal to study to be able to play Bach’s organ works when I retire in 6 months. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reachable goal. I am 75 and a good amateur pianist. Mozart piano concertos, Beethoven piano sonatas, about a third of the Well Tempered Clavier, etc. I have never played organ and would have to learn pedal (at a very high level to play Bach I think.) Before I invest in an organ I’d like to have some idea if this is nuts. Any thoughts.
I am not able to evaluate your abilities! Some learn faster than others. You can probably find a nearby church that would allow you to practice on their organ for free.
Hi Heidi! I am so thankful I found your blog! I have been the only organist/pianist at our church for the last 14 years. Although I took 2 semesters of organ in high school I didn’t practice much because I was NEVER going to play again. The church had an old organ so I didn’t do much footwork, but last week we got our new Allen Organ and I’m suddenly inspired to play the pedals! I am so glad to hear it IS possible to start playing pedals as an adult and I’m a lot less terrified now. I even ordered organ shoes because of course I got rid of mine after college when I was never going to play again. 😉 Thanks for the inspiration.
Thank you for leaving a comment! Good luck with the pedals! I would be better by now if I made more time for practicing!
Hello Heidi — I was just advised of your blog by the daughter of the shop foreman of Saville Organ, when it was in Northbrook, Illinois. She thought I’d be interested, because I was the tonal director of Saville from 1970 to 1975, during which time, we built the organ for the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago — at that time, the largest electronic organ which had ever been built. I enjoyed my time there, and many instruments passed through my design desk, as well as many pleasant tonal finishing jobs in many churches all over the United States.
I left Saville and joined another company on the west coast, after which I came back to my native Oklahoma and started up my pipe organ building workshop. I have now retired from that, but I do have the entire file system and all paperwork from the original Saville Company, in Illinois, as well as the later company in Wichita Kansas. (I also have in my possession, the console from the Auditorium Theatre, which was taken out some years back.
If anyone reading your blog would have any interest in any paper work, diagrams, plans, specifications, electrical schematics of any particular organ, I’ll be glad to provide it, as I have it all, actually, I have everything from the old Saville Corporation which may exist.
Best wishes with your organ — it is a fine instrument, ideal for a home, and a delight for anyone to play and enjoy.
Tom Cotner – Cotner-Pipe Organs, Martha, OK 73556 — 580-649-1208 email@example.com
thank you for providing your contact information and sharing your story with Saville. Occasionally, I get emails asking if have diagrams, etc. I will be sure to refer them to you in the future!
Tom, I always wondered where the console from the Auditorium Theater in Chicago went. It was on 3-phase power as I remember. I saw the electronics on that console years ago when I went with Dennis to try to revive it. Saville was always an amazing organ to hear. Sometimes difficult to work on due to the amount of boards and electronics inside it, but at least they were repairable. I have amplifier assemblies, coupler/generator boards, blueprints and more here also. I’m sure no where as much as you have. The pedal speakers on that Chicago organ were beyond awesome! Huge tubes that worked extremely well. I remember meeting Bob Saville years ago. He was an amazing man!
Hi Tom, you post to Heidi was so interesting to me. I’ve been playing the organ for our church for almost 50 years! I am 80 now, whew, but still playing for our church and at home. I’ve played all types of organs over the years–Allen B2 (vacuum tubes, imagine), Conn, Wurlitzer, Welte Pipe organ, Yamaha Electone EL90, and many more makes/models. I now play a Roland AT300 at our church.
Nelson A Clark
I was searching for Saville organs, and found your posts. Someone donated a Saville to the Chicago Auditorium Theatre long ago. Virgil Fox recorded on the organ, and you can find it on YouTube. That venue had a Roosevelt organ installed in 1899. It was removed after William Barnes bought it in 1942. Barnes wrote about it in his book. It was headed for junk! Most problems with older electronic organs involves the capacitors. In particular, capacitors in the amplifier(s). Keep up your work.