How I decided to become an organist

The question I am most often asked is “Why did you decide to become an organist?

The answers I have given people have not always been the same. I usually respond with a short answer:

Organist Heidi
Organist Heidi Bender
  • My church didn’t have an organist and I thought I could fill that role!
  • Or, I always wanted to try it (not 100% accurate – see below)

Let’s start at the beginning

At my childhood church in Tiffin, OH, the organist was Roma King. I remember feeling mesmerized watching her feet on the pedals. It is possible that I never shared this feeling with anyone. I was a very quiet child. I would like to say that I always wanted to try it. But if I “always” wanted to try it, it sure seems like I would have given the idea more thought before I was in my 20’s. Perhaps, a suppressed desire is a better description.

Skip ahead 15-20 years

When I got married in 2002, I felt a little sad that my church no longer employed an organist. I was not courageous enough back then to seek out an organist to play at my wedding. The idea though of my church not having an organist stayed in the back of my mind.

Fast forward 7 years

In February of 2009, my husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. One of the lessons focused on careers and suggested follow up reading included Dan Miller’s book 48 Days to the Work You Love. An exercise in this book is to write down all the skills you currently have, passions, and interest. Learning the organ showed up on my “interest” list. Another step was to write goals and I put to learn to play the organ within 2 years.

I did not take immediate action. Sometime after writing that goal list, I remember sitting in church on a Sunday morning staring at the empty organ bench. I thought to myself, I can do it! I can learn to play the organ. Then I started looking on the Internet for organists in the area. I discovered Michael Gartz listed as the organist at Adrian College. One June 9, 2009 found the courage to send him an email. I received a response back that same day and he agreed to give me lessons! In September 2009 I started lessons and continue to take them.

Current Day

Since starting lessons, I have learned more about the pipe organ and its role in church services. I love the idea of the pipe organ being used to lead people in singing! This is one reason why I keep going! Becoming an organist is one of the greatest joys of my life.

What do you have an interest in that you’d like to do someday?

April 2014 Organ Lesson and my first YouTube video
Pipes & Bells An Evening of Organ and Handbell Music
Website | + posts

Heidi Bender writes about her experiences of learning to play the organ. She started on the adventure in 2009.

She also writes on her website Tons of Thanks, which helps people write thank-you notes. Heidi is also a cat lady who writes at The Joy of Cats.

19 thoughts on “How I decided to become an organist”

  1. Hello Heidi,
    What a wonderful story about your rise to stardom!
    I have virtually no musical experience, but by chance have been asked to become organist in two Masonic lodges in Hampshire, UK.
    I have ‘performed’ 3 times in one lodge, and I have to play at the two separate venues later this month.
    I relate fully to your nerves and feelings of doom. I have to say that my first time was certainly not good! My encouragement now is that each time I play, there is a very small improvement – until the next mistake!
    Best of luck to you, and for the New Year.
    Kind wishes

  2. Hi Heidi,

    Congratulations on your journey! I am a pianist that started taking organ lessons about a year ago. I stumbled on your blog while searching for an organ for my home. I currently practice at 2 churches, but just do not get enough practice time to progress how I want. I look forward to reading your blog!

  3. Hi Heidi,

    My name is Mike Keegan and I play organ at Summerfield Methodist Church in Milwaukee, WI. I also play at Ss. Peter and Paul and Our Lady of Divine Providence Parishes also in Milwaukee. I started organ studies in 2010 and had a little bit of a piano background and my primary instrument is horn (French Horn). Since I had two degrees in horn performance, Bachelor of Arts from UW-Whitewater and MM from UW-Milwaukee, coming from a horn background has given a wonderful advantage of organ as a wind instrument. I was very impressed with your bio and moving forward as an organist. I currently do private study with Karen Beaumont in both organ and piano. I wish you all the best with the organ and please feel free to reply back at anytime.

    Mike Keegan

  4. Very informative and inspirational sharing about you and why you play the organ. There are a some organists needed in Greenville, Ohio and surrounding towns and areas. That seems to be a shortage especially in organists that want to play. Didn’t realize how close we were to you when we took a mystery AAA trip to Tiffin. We would like to go there with more time than a day. If we could coordinate with your playing that would be even better. Let us know.

    • Hi Jim,

      I do not currently live in Tiffin. My family moved to Adrian (about 1.5 hours north of Tiffin) when I was in middle school. I do not know enough hymns to have a church job yet (and my sight reading is not so good). Thanks for thanking of me!


  5. Your are doing very good with you desire be an organist. Your blogs are always interesting, I like reading them. You are an inspiration to others.

  6. Heidi,
    Congratulations on taking action on your “interest.” I hear from a lot of people who don’t know their passion. But what they don’t realize is that our passions are developed more than discovered. We take action on the seed of an interest, devote time and practice to improve, and then it develops into a passion – and we are seen as “lucky” to have that talent. Thanks for sharing your story – Dan Miller, author 48 Days to the Work You Love.

  7. Heidi,

    It is so interesting to read how were inspired as a little
    girl to start thinking about being an organist, That inspiration grew
    as you became older and knew you could really work on the goal.
    I still remember the day we moved the organ into your living room.
    You have been practice at home ever since then. It is great how you
    travel around to other churches to see and hear the organs there.


  8. I would love to hear you play someday. I also love organ music
    and I too, wish we had organ music in church.
    Good for you for following your dream!


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