Musicians in Part-Time Employment: Do Only Organists Play the Organ?

By Krider, Dale | The American Organist, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Musicians in Part-Time Employment: Do Only Organists Play the Organ?


Krider, Dale, The American Organist


In a time when more and more are employing part-time musicians, ganists and choir directors find selves having to supplement their in some way. For some, it means finding second career, perhaps even going back school and studying something other music.

Perhaps you are in this situation. If so, you're in good company. Many organists through the years have been productive in fields other than playing the organ. Let's look at some of these remarkable people. (At this point I need to thank John Walker, our National Vice President, for this article and for giving me his notes on a recent workshop he led for organists with multiple careers.)

It is not unusual for organists to earn a living in other music venues. Here are a few examples.

Nadia Boulanger studied with Vierne and Guilmant and developed her skills to become an organ recitalist, who in 1925 gave 20 concerts, and came to America in 1938 to present 40 lecture-recitals. This remarkable lady also found that she could compose, teach, and conduct. Although she did do some guest conducting with the Royal Philharmonic in London and the Boston Symphony, she was primarily a teacher to more than 1,200 musicians, including such important names as Aaron Copland and Walter Piston.

Vincent Persichetti was organist and director of a Presbyterian church in Philadelphia for 20 years and became a composer of works for symphony, piano, string quartet, and organ. As a teacher, he taught composition at the Juilliard School for many years, touching the lives of Peter Schickele, Philip Glass, and many others.

Johann Sebastian Bach was the virtuoso organist of his day, but he also played violin, taught keyboard, and composed (more than 1,087 compositions are listed in the Schmieder catalog). At his post in Leipzig, in addition to all of his musical duties, he also taught Latin!

Many musicians find themselves with broader interests and realize an expanded career in areas other than music. It was my great privilege to have known David Curfman, who was trained as an organist, spent some time as a part-time organist, and served the AGO in several capacities, both locally and nationally. But his primary career was as a neurosurgeon and one who was greatly respected in that field.

We know Dieterich Buxtehude was a great organist. After all, Bach walked 200 miles to hear him play! But Buxtehude also served as bookkeeper for the Marienkirche in Lübeck as did his predecessor, Franz Tunder. …

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