Who Knew Cleveland Could Be So Much Fun?

Monday, July 13th 2009

Greetings all from (today, July 13) rainy St. Petersburg, FL.
I’m not sure where to begin. The convention has ended and there is a warm glow, a busy buzz, a need for a nap, and a great big smile for a most successful event on almost all fronts.
First, to ATOS Convention Planning Coordinator Mike Kinerk, our thanks for being in that post and bringing expertise in the myriad areas that demand that expertise when planning and executing the activities involved in a convention event.
More so to our friends from the Western Reserve Chapter of ATOS. It was the late 70’s when a very different group staged a regional convention in that neck of the woods. This was the chapter’s Maiden Voyage in hosting a major convention. I am sure the experience can be divided into three distinct sections: 1.) The “this is going to be great – isn’t it exciting” start-up section; 2.) the “oh my God – what have we done – how are we ever going to get through this” section, which by the way, is foremost right up until the first concerts; and 3.) the “oh my God – is it finally over – I’m exhausted – I’ll never do this again – oh it was great fun – let’s see, the next open year is 2014 - well, maybe” section, which will go on until the books are closed and everybody sighs a big sigh of relief.
Doug Powers, Tom Rathburn, Bob Moran, Jr., and all of that band of smiling and hard-working chapter members organized and executed a spectacular event. Musically, it was first-rate, and the line-up of artists stepped up to the plate and hit musical home run after home run from the Overture event right though the Encore day.
Great advance planning was in evidence as there were few serious glitches. No lost busses; no organ disasters; only one lost husband (who was quickly found – Len, get a cell phone!!!) and one glorious movie palace after another. The most fun was to see the jaw-dropping looks on faces as every day we stepped into surroundings we couldn’t imagine could be all in one part of the country.
Naturally, each convention has its challenges. Rest assured that those who filled out the survey will be heard, and that information will form the basis for a complete review of the Convention Handbook. Issues such as handicap busses and enough staff to help with them…such as “to intermission or to not intermission”…more seminars or fewer seminars…more free time or more concerts…more variety shows or strictly organ concerts…all of these will get serious discussion as Mike Kinerk, his predecessor Tim Needler, Tyler Morkin, and representatives from WRTOS and Puget Sound, plus Eastern Mass, LA and Atlanta, all sit down and offer a serious review of convention procedures in an effort to make it easier for our local chapters to host and execute an annual convention.
Meanwhile, there is a serious piece of business to attend to that has a wonderful outcome for both ATOS and the local chapter. This is a bit of a “good news/bad news” scenario. The bad news is that WRTOS did not quite complete the installation of the big Wurlitzer we had hoped to hear in the Masonic Auditorium. Not for lack of effort. The mostly-volunteer crew put in hundreds of hours in an effort to get it ready…and missed it by about six weeks or so.
The good news is that part of the financing of the project included a loan from the ATOS Endowment Fund. The rules and regulations of the Fund allow for loans under the proper circumstances. ATOS loaned WRTOS $35,000 toward the installation of the Wurlitzer, that funding to be paid back with interest based on proceeds from the convention event.
Please note the following: as per a change in policy in 2008: the split on profit and loss for an annual convention is 60% to the local chapter and 40% to ATOS. (It used to be 50/50.) In organizing the convention, events such as the Pre-Glow and After-Glow (or Overture and Encore in the case of WRTOS) are in the control of the local chapter. ATOS is not involved financially in those “outside” events. This was also the case in the very-last-minute opportunity that made the Aveni Mansion available. ATOS also does not get involved in the operation of the Record Shop. This helps the local chapter create the potential for financial success in hosting conventions. One great example – every convention that Central Indiana has hosted has been successful, and has provided the chapter the opportunity to install a new instrument, or seriously upgrade an existing instrument.
One of the major drawing cards for local chapters hosting conventions is the opportunity to earn money for the chapter. The convention is set up based on a minimum cost, then further based on a “break-even” number of attendees. Fortunately, both Indianapolis in 2008 and Cleveland this year had solid attendance numbers, allowing for profitable conventions.
WRTOS will be paying back its loan to the Endowment Fund, plus interest, as per the original agreement, and right on time. ATOS provided a valuable service to a local chapter by providing funding in the form of a major loan, from which eventually WRTOS will have a spectacular new instrument. This was done within the rules and guidelines established in the Trust document for the Endowment Fund, and it turned out to be a very good venture for both entities.
The current economic environment will perhaps dictate that the ATOS Board take a very serious look at any near-future similar activity. However, should efforts at growing the Endowment Fund succeed, this type of activity under the proper circumstances could again be good for a local chapter and for ATOS.
Enough of that…this is a blog and is supposed to be light and entertaining!!! The upcoming issue of the journal will have Robert Ridgeway’s review of the event and tons of pictures supplied by Richard Neidich and others. We are indeed producing a “highlights” double-CD recording and it will be available in mid-October, once we get the clearances from artists and all the production completed. Our thanks to Steve Worthingon who volunteered his time and skills and recorded all of the convention events for the production of the CD.
And congratulations to our award winners – those individuals who were honored by ATOS for service to the organization. Vern Bickel has done yeoman’s work for ATOS for some 30 years-plus, including serving as President, editor of Theatre Organ, board member, convention host and planner, and so much more. His return to the board three years ago helped ATOS at a time when his wise counsel and vast experience was so much needed. His name added to the Hall of Fame roster is most appropriate.
Robert Ridgeway was awarded the Member of the Year Award for his service to ATOS, particularly in the area of recording and preserving our history. His vast collection of material will provide us an insight as to styles and a reminder as to the skills of the greats like Don Baker, Ann Leaf, Buddy Cole and so many more that will eventually become part of our treasure trove of archival material. More than that, his work at the Sanfillipo residence helped introduce theatre organ and ATOS to thousands who visited there.
Atlanta chapter’s Ron Carter was named Honorary Member for 2009 for his great efforts at the Strand Theatre in Marietta, GA, where theatre organ music (via an Allen organ) is heard by audiences in advance of the installation of a pipe organ. Ron’s work with that theatre’s board of directors has been vital in ensuring more theatre organ music will be heard in the Atlanta area, and this award is most deserved. And a big thanks to Donna Carter, Ron’s wife, for helping keep this a secret and getting Ron to the banquet! (And allowing Ron to spend so much time playing in the “theatre organ sandbox!!”)
Larry Donaldson was awarded an honor, new this year, to a Technician that has provided long and exemplary service to a particular instrument. Larry and “Big Bertha” in Birmingham are synonymous. And the hundreds of thousands of miles Larry has put on his car commuting from Macon, GA to Birmingham almost every weekend of his adult life are testimony to his devotion to that great pipe organ. We will enjoy the fruits of that labor this fall at the Birmingham regional event, and for many, many years to come.
Finally, our Organist of the Year is Chris Elliott, and this was just the right thing to do, and as it turned out, at the right time. I was reminded that Chris started playing silent films when he was just 15, and studied with Gaylord Carter, and Lyn Larsen among others. He has been at the top of his game for years, and is most deserving of joining the company of his fellow players. And the appropriateness of this award in this year is highlighted by the fact that Chris performed TWICE for this convention event – opening night providing the score for The Mark of Zorro, and later in concert with Jelani Eddington at the variety event at the Masonic Auditorium.
Congratulations to all, and our sincere thanks for doing what you do for ATOS.
There is so much more news out of the convention that I will post another blog in a week to highlight some of the other neat stuff cookin’.
Til then….