How I decided to become an organist
April 17, 2014

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?

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

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Andy RF - January 3, 2019 Reply

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
Andrew

Tracy - December 28, 2018 Reply

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!

    Heidi Bender - December 29, 2018 Reply

    Thanks, Tracy!

    Someone else asked me how to find an organ to have at home recently, so perhaps I should write up a post about it!

Jerry Westenkuehler - October 27, 2017 Reply

Keep up the hard work! Thanks for sharing your story!!!!

Mike Keegan - September 4, 2017 Reply

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

Alexander López - December 5, 2014 Reply

It takes guts to plunge into learning such instrument as an adult, with all the time-robbing commitments we all have. But it’s even better to know you have persisted! Yeah!

Jim Fryman - April 20, 2014 Reply

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.

    Heidi Bender - April 21, 2014 Reply

    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!

    Heidi

Aunt Mary - April 18, 2014 Reply

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.

Dan Miller - April 18, 2014 Reply

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.

    Heidi Bender - April 18, 2014 Reply

    Dan,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and posting a comment! The actions I took after reading your book changed my life.

    Heidi

Mom - April 18, 2014 Reply

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.

Mom

    Heidi Bender - April 18, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Mom! Moving the organ into the loving was quite the challenge. I bet Dad still remembers that too. It turned out to be quite heavy.

Barb Blaesing - April 18, 2014 Reply

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!

    Heidi Bender - April 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi Barb,

    I will let you know when I have a recital. I am a bit overdue because of the whole confidence thing. and will take some effort to find a place to hold it.

    Heidi

Jenny - April 18, 2014 Reply

That’s was so interesting. I would like to become a nutritionist/dietician.

    Heidi Bender - April 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jenny,

    You can do it! I could use some advice form a nutritionist.

    Heidi

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