ATOS Theatre Organ Adventure
July 20-23, 2007 - Wheaton, Illinois
By Jeff Worthington

What a wonderful four days my family and I had at the ATOS First Annual Theater Organ Adventure! Thank you for the scholarship! Although I had taken piano lessons for several years, I had never played on a theatre organ until that Friday evening. With Jelani standing beside me and adjusting the stops, I was able to play one of my piano jazz tunes.

The Organ Camp started Friday evening at Paul Van Der Molen's Wheaton-Fox Studios with introductions, pizza and open console. On Saturday, Jonas Nordwall lectured and demonstrated techniques for all styles of organ performance. On Sunday he covered how to develop practical tools and skill. Jeff Weiler, the historian, also joined us and encapsulated the history of the theater organ and encouraged us to do our part to keep the theater organ style of music alive for another generation. Sunday night, the Joliet Chapter served us a chicken dinner at the Rialto, gave us a brief history about the theater and then we had open console time with Jelani, Donna, Jonas and Martin helping with the registrations. Monday, Jonas explained contemporary playing styles, orchestrating an arrangement, and the after beat. Then Clark Wilson, an organ technician explained how a theater organ worked. He emphasized the importance of keeping theater organs intact and kept saying that during a restoration, "Do no harm."

Each day, a block of time was set aside for the students to play one of their pieces (ballad, show tune or Latin American selection) on either Paul's organ or an Allen organ at the Holiday Inn. Donna divided us into two groups and we would alternate on the organs with the experts giving us advice. It seemed to me the students fell into one of three categories: those who had already invested quite a bit of time in theater organ lessons, those who played mostly by ear, and those who had a classical piano background. It was fun watching Jelani, Donna and Jonas work with and encourage each student.

Monday night was the grand finale with a tour and dinner at the Sanfilippo Victorian Palace. This was followed with a concert by Donna, Jonas, Jelani and Martin and then open console time. This was a truly spectacular evening!

Michael Cierski did a superb job of organizing this event. I enjoyed being able to visit with Jelani, Donna and Jonas. I will always remember Paul Van Der Molen's hospitality.

I learned so much during these four days, but two things really stand out. First, I can play a theatre organ and would like to make the time to do so. Second, I know that there are a lot of adults who are willing to invest time, money and effort to encourage my generation to keep the theater organ alive.

Thank you for giving me this scholarship.