Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 266 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dan. He writes, in response to my question about how he became fascinated with the organ. So he continues:
For me, I’d say even back then when I was really young, I had an interest, and fascination in the organ. And as I still do to this day, whenever I’d hear the organ played at the church i’d attended at the time, which had really nice, excellent acoustics, i’d listen to every little detail of the organist’s playing. Some friends of ours had one of those little spin it organs, made by a company who I don’t think was really known for making stuff like that - Electrohome.
Whenever we’d go over there, I’d never want to get off of that instrument. It was one of those that had slightly shorter manuals than a conventional 61 key manual. They only went down to an f, so they were shorter on the bottom end, and only 13 little short, tiny pedals, which you could only play one note at a time on.
But back to that organ in the church i’d attended, I one time, had attempted to talk to the organist, we’d went up to the console after a service, and I’d asked if I could take a look at the instrument, it was a two manual Allen organ, from the late 1980’s I think. She’d pretty much said no, that I couldn’t, but i managed to get a finger onto the bottom notes of one of the manuals. She’d either totally turned off the organ, or just didn’t have any stops on, I’m not sure which it was, as when I’d pressed the keys which I did manage to touch, I didn’t hear any sound at all.
I was disappointed, after we’d left there. I think it’s important, for organists to show people, no matter how young or old they are, the instrument, if they’re interested. I later did get to try that organ, but that was a couple of years later, after that first experience.
V: So, Ausra, I think the main idea that Dan is trying to communicate is his disappointment in the situation that the local organists didn’t show him the organ.
A: Yes, it’s very disappointing, you know, for a kid.
V: Did you have something like that in your life when you were growing up? You said your first experience with the organ was in Nida, right?
A: Well, when I heard the homeland organ recital, yes.
V: Did you want to go upstairs and try out the instrument yourself?
A: No, because I think I was just too shy for such a thing, but I remember that recital. It was really something! And then also afterward, I finished my first grade of elementary school. We had our choir concert at the Philharmonium building in Vilnius, which has this big Schucke instrument. And Bernardas Vasiliauskas, actually, he was the man who played that organ recital in Nida at the first organ recital that I have ever heard, he actually showed us that organ from inside, and I just remember that feeling—it was so fascinating. I just could not imagine that there could be so much space in the instrument, so…
V: Ausra, now tell us a little bit… how did you become a professional organist? How did you decide to become a professional organist? Who suggested for you this idea?
A: Well, it was actually by accident, I think, that I became an organist.
V: Right, so….
A: Because simply, I graduated from National Čiurlionis Art School, where I teach now, and I didn’t want to go the Acadamy of Music, because my major at the time was choir conducting, and I didn’t want to lead a choir. And, I wanted to study history at the University of Vilnius. But, then I met one professor, a piano professor from our Academy of Music, and he listened to my piano playing, and he told me that I should study at the Academy of Music, and if I don’t want to study choir conducting, I could study the organ.
V: That’s right. And you said yes, right? Did you spontaneously agree, or did you….?
A: Well, yes, I almost spontaneously agreed, because I have never thought about that possibility, but since childhood, the organ fascinated me. And then, he told me about this possibility, I was sure right at that moment that it’s the right path for me.
V: So you say that when you said “yes” to that piano professor, in your memory, this Philharmonium Schucke organ experience came out, right?
A: Yes, and the Nidas recital, too. So, I think it’s very important, what you experience as a child.
V: Imagine that Bernardas Vasiliauskas would have been busy or not there, and didn’t show you this organ from inside. Your curiosity about this instrument might have not been great at that moment.
A: That’s true! That’s true, because I think that children are the most eager to accept things and to experience things, not an adult. I think so many adults with the years just lose the curiosity, and it’s just too bad.
V: And when my teacher were at the academy of music because of the organ, too.
A: That’s right.
V: So, we probably wouldn’t be speaking today to you guys, if not for Ausra’s first grade experience, right? When someone really great introduced the organ to the entire class, group of children, and for me, probably, too! If my mom didn’t show me the instrument in our summer place where we stayed—small village church, anonymous builder organ without pedals, and she pumped the bellows for me by hand—I probably also would have chosen a different path, maybe choir conducting!
V: Because, I had probably a stronger interest in choir conducting than you at that time.
A: So, I think it’s a good lesson from Dan’s letter that we can learn, all of us, you know who are organists and have access to an instrument, that if somebody, especially children, show interest in the organ, we need to show them around. Let them play. Of course, not damaging the instrument, but you know, really, we need to guide them, and to show them the instrument, because one day, maybe they will decide to learn this profession! And I think it’s so important nowadays when organ art is slowly dying.
V: And, for example, if you are doing organ demonstrations to a group of kids, it’s really a great idea to let them draw the organ. Not only play, but draw. So, maybe one or two are playing at the moment, sitting on the bench, or sometimes even three, but the rest of them could draw with pencils or with crayons, or pastel, something that you could all bring together, like a story about the organ, and that way they will internalize the instrument and experience much deeper.
A: That’s right.
V: Thank you guys, this is a lot to think about for us, and hopefully for you, too. And please keep sending us those wonderful questions, we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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