2012 Summer Youth Adventure

Monday, July 30th 2012

To paraphrase Mel Brooks’ line in History of the World, Part I, “It’s good to be the President” when one has rewarding and memorable duties such as I had this past Friday and Saturday.

There were 17 of them…from all over….Jacob from Arizona; Dan from New York; another Dan from Pennsylvania; Peter from Missouri; Doug from Washington; and others from Illinois, Oregon, Michigan and points beyond.

And there was talent on display, oh my, was there talent. I heard great renditions of Broadway tunes, a performance of the Poet and the Peasant overture, some really inventive jazz, and a lot of just simply good theatre organ music.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the final days of the ATOS Summer Youth Adventure, this year staged in Wilmington, DE at Dickinson High School, home of the great Kimball organ. With Jonas Nordwall touring Australia, Lance Luce joined Donna Parker, Martin Ellis and Jelani Eddington as lead instructors for the event, which indeed found 17 young musicians in attendance.

There were three “new ones” along with some who were there for the second time, and a few who were there for the fifth or even sixth time.

And among those of us watching from the sidelines was ATOS Director Larry Fenner, witnessing this burst of talent, energy and enthusiasm for the first time.

In terms of the highlights, or the things I believe are the most important in terms of what this event provides, I think of the following:
• Growth – this is my fourth event of the six – and I witnessed tremendous growth as some of these young players have moved from “crash, bang, loud and fast” to real musicianship. This is so rewarding to hear;
• Interest – not all of these young people are destined to be concert players, and that is NOT the point. What they all can be are ambassadors and fans, and help us develop a new generation of listeners – equally as important as players;
• Talent – believe me, some of these young players ARE concert ready. The Adventure has influenced the likes of Donnie Rankin and Nathan Avakian, and Justin Lavoie who performed at the LA convention is a wonderful player, and Glenn Tallar is not only performing at a pizza restaurant in Lansing, IL, but is working for Jeff Weiler’s company and learning the “how-to’s” of maintenance, restoration and installation work;
• Camaraderie and friendship – the friendships and relationships being developed through this event are great to see from a distance. This is as much about fun as it is about learning.

I write this line about once a year, and I write it again. I wish everyone would have a chance to sit in on just one day of the ATOS Summer Youth Adventure. It is exciting, rewarding, invigorating, refreshing, entertaining, and great fun.

My personal thanks to the staff…Jonas, Jelani, Donna, Martin and Lance. The work involved in preparation is more like a 12-month task, not just the month of the event, and these dedicated musicians pour their hearts and all of that talent into making this a great event for the attendees. And thanks to the parents who were there to assist. Thanks to Bob Dilworth, his wife MaryAnn, Carl Black and all at Dickinson (along with the folks at the Colonial Theatre, Wanamaker’s/Macy’s, Longwood Gardens and all of the stops that hosted the young musicians).

Finally, my thanks to the many chapters who either contributed by providing scholarship dollars for a particular student in their area (for NYTOS, it was dollars for TWO students!), and those who simply provided dollars from their chapter treasury to support the program, and specifically to long time ATOS members Dick Willson and Larry Grundy. These two responded to my Fund Raising Challenge with major gifts. In Dick Willson’s case, his $5,000 gift was specifically earmarked for the SYA; and a portion of Larry Grundy’s gift was steered in this direction. And these two outstanding members pledged their gifts for five consecutive years going forward.

Now, I get to do this all over again August 7-8. I will be heading to the Technical Experience in Norman, OK. While an altogether different exercise, the outcome is the same. Teaching important elements in the world of the theatre organ, for the TE it’s renovation, restoration, installation, repair and other major items on the technical side. Allen Miller reports a solid group (16 as of the last report I saw) of attendees ready to learn. This, too, is a VERY important event for ATOS, and is both rewarding and fun.

Mel Brooks had it right!!

More next week.

Ken Double