Recent Travels With ATOS

Tuesday, October 13th 2009

To say I’ve been traveling a lot does not do the term “traveling” justice.

As I write this, I have been home now for four days...my longest stretch at home in over five weeks!!

During my 17 years broadcasting hockey games, my teams had some interesting travel schedules. It was not unusual to look at the calendar and find out the team was going to be hitting the road a lot, and traveling at odd hours.

Holiday time could be the worst. Kids out of school meant potentially bigger crowds, thus more games crammed into a tighter schedule. One year, I recall fighting through 11 games in 16 nights in nine different cities, with all-night bus rides and 4 a.m. wake-up calls to catch planes.

None of it matched my recent travels with ATOS. With a just-concluded stop at the Allen Organ Company in Macungie, PA (October 6) and the 3:30 a.m. wake-up call to return a rental car and catch my flight home to Tampa/St. Petersburg, I completed the following:

  • Was on the road for 10 of the preceding 12 weekends
  • Completed a stretch of 28 days, of which I was home for four
  • Visited with officials of eight different ATOS chapters, including working with leaders of our newest chapter, the First State Chapter, based in Wilmington, DE
  • Visited with a group considering forming a new chapter
  • Witnessed our second ATOS Touring Show performance
  • Performed a “sneak-preview” of a new Wurlitzer installation for the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall in Cincinnati, OH
  • Watched Clark Wilson perform the accompaniment for METROPOLIS before nearly 1700 at Purdue University’s Hall of Music - with 800 students enthralled with his performance
  • On the “personal” side, performed full concerts in three locales, and private or chapter functions in three others
  • Met with potential sponsors and partners on specific ATOS projects.

On a final personal note, I worked through the final days of the life of my Dad, Art, who passed away at the age of 91. And my sincere thanks to so many who wrote, called or contacted me and our family in response to his passing. Your kind words and thoughts are so very much appreciated.

All of this travel, all of these meetings, all of this contact, and all of this effort is aimed at our continuing desire to work more directly with our local chapters; to work diligently to continue the step-by-step process of providing more exposure for the music we love; and continue growing the relationships that we hope will provide long-term support for ATOS and the theatre organ in five, 10, and 20 years from now and beyond.

The final few days of travel found ATOS Chairman COL. Mike Hartley riding along for a meeting with First State Chapter; a concert at Dickinson; a meeting with Allen Organ officials and more.

Meanwhile, we are keenly aware of what several of you remind us about somewhat regularly. We are operating this fiscal year with a budget deficit, and the Board of Directors is at work trying to find resources and shave expenses to eliminate that deficit by the end of this fiscal year which is April 30, 2010. We have transferred our accounting process to QuickBooks, which will make Paul Van Der Molen’s job as Treasurer simpler, and make communicating the accounting process to you clearer. COL. Hartley, whose career in the Army was spent in Accounting, has reinvigorated the Finance Committee to assist Paul, and ATOS is committed to a full audit of its finances at the conclusion of this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, our new programs continue. The Touring Show holds some great promise with new productions in the planning stages despite some setbacks with the first two productions. Like so many things, this is a learning process. There are two potential shows that provide great promise, involving two partners very willing to work with ATOS.

ATOS Theatre Organ Radio continues its astounding growth. One of the measurements of the listening audience is “Time Spent Listening.” When creator Steve Worthington began this effort on his own several years ago, his original program would generate around 1500 listening hours per month (the total time people logged on were listening to his presentation). When we began our partnership last April, it did not take long for the listening hours to double to 3000 hours and beyond.

Today, ATOS Theatre Organ Radio is approaching 10,000 listening hours per month. The host for this effort is a company called Live/365, which hosts more than 7,000 programming entities. ATOS’ listenership is among the top 220 of those 7,000 + programs.

The recent trip into Pennsylvania and Delaware did allow Mike Hartley and I the opportunity to see first hand the tremendous progress being made at Macy’s/Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia. Curt Mangel and his staff have done brilliant work in restoring the Lowell Ayars Wurlitzer, with an attention to detail that I believe most of us will find mind-boggling. The console has been placed in the room on a lift. The work on chests, relays, reservoirs etc., is complete, with tremendous attention paid to “original restoration,” as per our agreement. Winding is being completed as we speak, and pipework should be in place soon. There is some hope that the organ might enjoy a “sneak preview” during a Christmas event at Macy’s. This is very exciting work, and the plans for a gala opening presentation will be announced soon.

Of all the travel I was involved with, there was one trip I could not make, and I sure wish I could have done justice to my last name, and been at two places at once.

Being involved in meetings, marketing and a concert the weekend of October 3-4 did not allow me to witness first hand the spectacularly successful event staged at the University of Oklahoma. The unveiling of the “Mini-Moller” during a weekend of concert events was beyond spectacular. Classical music, “pops” music, silent films, variety presentations, student performances and more, in front of packed audiences of appreciative attendees provided the setting for Dr. John Schwandt to show off what he and his staff have created in “Sooner-land.”

Most importantly, John was able to demonstrate his vision, “show-off” his creation, and prove that his ideas about what a new college curriculum for organ studies should be are spot on. And, he and his staff did this before a critical audience of educators, prestigious officials in the organ world, performers, critics and those who might be impressed enough to provide his ideas the serious funding needed to move forward.

While there is still much to do, John Schwandt, Clark Wilson, Bob Wilhelm, John Reister and all involved at OU deserve our most serious congratulations for “pulling it off” and “making it happen” when so many in the organ world thought this “pipe dream” was foolish.

All that is happening at the University of Oklahoma bodes very well for the future of ATOS.

I’m enjoying homelife for a whopping 9 days before the following:

  • October 15 - to Orlando for counsel on the future of the Don Baker Wurlitzer
  • October 16 - off to South Florida for fund-raising meetings and a concert
  • October 28 - to Lafayette, IN for further discussion on a potential new chapter and to perform “Phantom” at Long Center
  • November 1 - to Birmingham for a chapter meeting and regional concert rehearsal
  • November 15 - to Boston area for meetings with EMCATOS on radio programming, further discussions on the next Touring Show event, fund-raising, and two concerts
  • November 27-30 - the Regional in Birmingham

I keep my bags packed, shoes shined, shirts pressed, and computer handy!!

Please be sure YOUR travel plans include Birmingham, AL for the regional in late November. Simon, Donna, Mark Herman, Jim Riggs and “Big Bertha” at the Alabama Theatre guarantee a GREAT event!! Will hope to see you there!

Take care!

Ken