Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making a Difference: It's Up to Each of Us

I have been thinking recently of ways of making a difference.

If you are like me, you see changes -- in your life, in your personal relationships, in your work environment, in the various organizations to which you belong -- that, if made, could make things a lot better. I find that sentences beginning with phrases such as "If only ...", "It's too bad that ...", and "Why don't they see that ...", easily become part of my vocabulary.

However, when I think of changes I've seen -- small changes that have made a difference in my life, or large history-making changes that have made a difference within organizations, religions, and nations -- it all boils down to one common denominator: a person who cared enough to make a difference. And here's the best news: each one of us has the potential to be that person.

Regarding the AGO, I have said in the past, "If only the AGO were more inviting to new members and friends." I truly believe that the Guild has valuable things to offer to every organist I encounter. But to many people outside our membership (and even some of our own members), we appear elitist, snobby, clique-ish, and otherwise non-welcoming.

It's time to move past "If only." I can make a difference. You can make a difference. It's time to take on that delightful responsibility, and the possibilities that come with it!

We are beginning a new program year in all chapters of the AGO. I commit to you, members of Region VI, and I invite you to commit to your Guild, to do the following this program year:
  • Each time I talk about the Guild, whether I'm with a group of members or outside the organization, I will choose positive, welcoming and friendly words.
  • I will follow those words with positive, welcoming and friendly actions.
  • I will do this repeatedly, over the entire program year.
Let's do this together. I truly believe the result will be a transforming experience, for the Guild, for the people you encounter this year, and for YOU!

Sincere best wishes to you this year.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pipe Organ Encounters 2010

I'm excited to post that the AGO will sponsor TEN Pipe Organ Encounters across the country this summer -- TWO in Region VI.

A POE is a 4-5 day regional event organized by a local AGO chapter under the sponsorship of the national organization. I was part of the Greater Kansas City chapter's POE for teens last summer, and I must say that I came away from the event with a newfound hope for the future of our profession. The young musicians I encountered at the POE, and their willingness to engage in every aspect of organ playing and organ building, were an inspiration!

POEs are part of the outreach efforts of the Guild. They introduce people to pipe organ playing, repertoire, history, design and construction -- and perhaps most importantly, they are a chance to learn and network with others with similar interests. POEs are for teenage students. Basic keyboard proficiency is required, but previous organ study is not necessary. POE-A (POE Advanced) programs are for teenagers who have already attended a POE or are already receiving advanced private instruction. POE+ (POE Plus) is a program for adult keyboard musicians interested in improving their service-playing skills.

Pipe Organ Encounters:
  • Provide individual and group instruction in the basic rudiments of pipe organ technique and service playing.
  • Give a general overview of organ literature, history, and related topics.
  • Expose the participants to various concepts and examples of pipe organ construction and design.
  • Offer opportunities to participate in ecumenical worship, so as to experience the role of the sacred musician.
  • Provide an invaluable opportunity for young musicians to meet others with similar interests.
POEs are made possible by generous funding from the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA) and the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO).

See the list below for 2010 POE locations and dates. Scholarship assistance is available; click here. If you're a teen, consider "encountering the pipe organ" this summer! If you're an adult AGO member, help spread the word -- and perhaps sponsor a teen you know!

Region VI chapters will sponsor two POEs for teenagers. Click on the links for more information: June 13-18 in St. Louis, MO, and July 18-23 in Waukesha, WI. Other POEs are listed below.

Other POEs for Teenagers
June 13–18 Columbia, S.C.
June 21–26 Bloomington, Ind.
June 27–July 2 Fairfield, Conn.
July 25–30 Fort Worth, Tex.
July 25–31 Irvine, Calif.

POE (Advanced) for Teenagers
July 18–23 New York City

POE+ for Adults
July 26–30 Eugene, Oreg.
August 8–13 Winchester, Va.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A great New Year's Resolution

Why not resolve to invest in lifelong learning, by taking steps toward your first or your next level of AGO certification? See a letter from Jeff Verkuilen, Region VI's Coordinator for Education, below, and join us! Jan


Have you considered working toward and achieving an AGO certification? A Region VI "Certification Support Group" has been formed and is looking for new members to join, to support AGO members in the region who are interested in or working toward any of the five Guild certifications: Service Playing, Colleague, Associate, Fellow, and Choir Master.

One of the concerns that is raised frequently by both people considering certification and those who have achieved certification is that the effort can be an isolated, lonely process, one seemingly without the support of others. This Certification Support Group will help eliminate this sense of isolation!

Two communication options will be available to the Support Group members. First, I will share your name and e-mail address with others who are interested in the same certification. You can then exchange information, thoughts, suggestions, and encouragement with each other by e-mail, and if you choose, you can arrange to discuss by phone or meet in person.

Additionally, resource people are being arranged throughout Region VI who have achieved certification levels; all certifications will have resource people designated for them. They may be contacted by any Certification Support Group member with questions. These certificate holders will be able to share their certification experience, provide suggestions for study, and offer encouragement.

To join the Region VI Certification Support Group is simple: Contact me, your Region VI Education Coordinator, at, and provide to me:
  • your name
  • your e-mail address
  • your AGO chapter
  • the certification that you are pursuing or are interested in working toward.
Join the hundreds of AGO members in our region who have gone through the certification process, who can speak for the benefits of working toward and achieving certification and can demonstrate their resulting improved musicianship. And, they have lived to tell about it and enjoy the benefits! If you have any questions about the Certification Support Group, or AGO certifications in general, please feel free to contact me, and I will try to answer any questions you may have.


Jeffrey (Jeff) Verkuilen, AAGO
Education Coordinator, AGO Region VI