News and notes from the President and Chief Executive (CE) of the American Theatre Organ Society, Ken Double.

Friday, December 18th 2015

Greetings all,

I am probably a tad late on getting another of these email messages out to you all, but I had back-to-back trips and figured it best to recap the news following the most recent journey that brought me home to Atlanta Monday, December 14.

Before we touch on that, some important news you will wish to know.


SOMETHING BIG! was the title of the Philadelphia/DTOS 2015 ATOS Annual Convention, and is also the title for the commemorative CD now available through the ATOS Marketplace. The two-disc set offers many highlights of the event last July. For those who were in attendance, the set will hopefully bring back fond memories, and for those who could not attend, you can enjoy a taste of what was a fantastic convention, featuring so many wonderful instruments and performances.

Click on the

ATOS Marketplace

and you can order both the delayed-released Indianapolis 2014 convention set and the Philadelphia set.

ATOS’ fundraising ANNUAL DRIVE continues, and we so very much appreciate the support we receive from our members for our many individual programs that receive funding from your generosity. As the year 2015 comes to a close, many of you are making decisions that might have a positive impact on both your tax situation, and the nonprofit organizations you wish to support. We hope that would include ATOS. The information was mailed to you a short time ago. But you can also donate right here on the website. And again, all of us at ATOS are so very appreciative of your wonderful support of our organization.


Since August, ATOS has been hosting a web-based on-line conference call with chapter leaders to discuss important issues; raise questions about many topics; and share information helpful to all.
The next such call will be announced shortly, set for early January.

IF YOU ARE A CHAPTER PRESIDENT OR OFFICER and wish to be added to the list to be on the call (many chapters hold elections at this time of year, thus those who should be on the call might have changed), just send me an email and we will add your name to the list.

The calls are staged via GoToMeeting on line, but one can phone in and attend as well. We will announce the date and time right about January 1st.


I had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles area once again. It provided me an opportunity to visit with Mark Herman and Tony Wilson; Gordon Belt (former head of all things theatre organ at the Nethercutt Collection) and Kyle Irwin (current chief of the Collection); and several others. We got a good update from them regarding the LA convention, set for 2018.

The following weekend (December 11-12-13-14) found me north, hoping to beat any bad weather!
I flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul to perform a concert at the delightful Phipps Center in Hudson, WI.

Friday evening prior to the matinee concert, I met with members of the Land o’ Lakes Chapter to discuss general activities, and they are a busy bunch. Thanks to Dave Kearn for hosting and showing off his splendid Allen GW 4. There is great exposure for the theatre organ at the Heights Theatre where the instrument is heard regularly before movies. After the concert, I met with Bill Ertl and a group interested in forming a new chapter and getting an instrument in upstate Wisconsin. We are looking forward to working with them.

After that meeting it was off to Milwaukee and a Sunday afternoon chapter event at the Riverside Theatre and that wonderful Wurlitzer with the BIG sound! They have a group of young leaders working hard at the Dairyland Chapter with lots of interesting projects brewing. I also had the privilege of meeting Paul Woelbing of Carmex lib balm fame who is installing an amazing, gargantuan instrument at the family’s company headquarters.

And the indefatigable Fred Hermes was on hand and it was a delight to visit with one of the stalwarts of ATOS.

I then drove back to Minneapolis Sunday night – whew, that’s 5 hours each way – for a Monday session with Pipedreams host Michael Barone. We taped a two-hour show featuring all theatre organ music from recent conventions, a show which will air in March – specific date TBA.

During this trip I had a chance to meet several people sincerely interested in our art form and our organization; I was introduced to the new, young, dynamic leadership at Dairyland (Dean Roscoe, John Cornue, Zach Frame and Ryan Jonas are all in their 20’s and 30’s and what a refreshing experience that was!); I talked marketing and audience development with several; and had the chance to spread the “theatre organ gospel” with the message I love to announce every time I can: THIS is the Golden Age of the Theatre Organ!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays and most Happy New Year to you all!

Ken Double

Wednesday, October 28th 2015

October 22, 2015
Greetings from Home Base in Atlanta!

The “!” at the end of that opening greeting is well-deserved. I got home Monday night after a stretch of 30 days in which 25 were spent on the road. Whew!


ATOS director John Ledwon heads up the Endowment Fund Board of Trustees who oversee that activity, and the grants program the Endowment Fund provides. John, ATOS Treasurer Lee Lanier, and the trustees have made some important changes and upgrades to the ATOS Endowment Fund grants process.

For chapters which might be looking for financial assistance for organs they own, the Endowment Fund application process has changed considerably. There are many important changes to the process and procedures – the most critical is the new application deadline – which is now February 1, 2016.

New guidelines; more specific background information; a new and earlier deadline date – all important information for you to hve should you seek financial assistance for your chapter-owned theatre organ project from the Endowment Fund. If your chapter or organization is seeking a grant, check out the updated information on the ATOS website.
The link:

Meanwhile, this upcoming November-December issue of the Journal will also have the announcement for those who might wish to nominate someone to run for the ATOS Board of Directors. There are some slight adjustments in this year’s procedures as well. More importantly, we hope you will look over this information, and if you bring the skills and background to the table that can assist ATOS in the future, we hope you will consider running for the board. You’ll find the announcement prominently displayed on the inside front cover.


Through the efforts of Greg Bellamy and others in IT, our website has a decidedly different look and feel after several changes were implemented. It’s easier to navigate and there’s good, basic information on who we are and what a theatre organ is. More importantly, that is face front for the brand new visitor to the site.

This is good, and there is more to come. Greg, Steve Worthington and a host of others will continue to upgrade, revise, add new functions and implement step-by-step improvements to make the website visit a much more pleasant and informative experience for members and others interested in ATOS activities.


In late July and again in late August, ATOS staged the first-ever chapter conference calls, an invitation for chapter leaders to join in an online forum to discuss major topics affecting ATOS and answer major questions that the chapters have for ATOS. Those first two discussions were a successful experiment and thus, the program now continues.

The next ATOS chapter conference call will be Wednesday, November 4, 2015, and it will begin at 8:30pm Eastern time. Chapter officers, look for your email invitation to join the meeting, coming to you in the next week or so.


What a 30-day run! Los Angeles and San Diego twice; Tampa, Sarasota, Jacksonville and Lakeland in Florida; Cleveland; Erie; Toronto; North Tonawanda and Buffalo in NY; Kingston, Ontario; a lot of flying, driving, hotels, and wonderful people and productive meetings.

I discovered that the Balboa Theatre’s new management in San Diego is VERY organ friendly and using the Wonder Morton for a lot of events. Tony Conte in Buffalo is the talented 15-year major domo at Shea’s Buffalo, and LOVES the Wurlitzer and makes sure it is heard before Broadway shows and more. Cleveland and the Western Reserve chapter is gearing up for this upcoming convention; Central Florida chapter members are working hard for Tampa in 2017; and Mark Herman and crew are making initial plans for Los Angeles in 2018. And we have still-secret interested groups for 2019 AND 2020!!! Terrific convention interest in ATOS right now!

I met young pianists and organists at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda who are going to get their first opportunities to play a Wurlitzer. How did they happen upon my Wednesday night concert? IT WAS ON THE INTERNET!!! THEY READ ABOUT IT ON THEIR CELL PHONES!!!! HINT HINT!!! Note—that is free advertising!

I met the most dynamic and energetic people in San Diego, all excited about how the Robert-Morton organ at the Balboa Theatre can be used more often. And Russ Peck is right there (along with Rosemary Bailey and others) to help make the Morton sing.

And a “Thank you” to Dr. Carol Williams and her husband Kerry, who were most gracious hosts for dinner and a website interview for their ongoing series focused at Balboa Park and the Spreckels organ.

Will holler again very soon. It’s good to be home. And there continues to be a LOT of exciting activity within ATOS, and a LOT of good people doing good work: thank you Richard Neidich, Lee Lanier, John Ledwon, Mark Renwick, Donna Parker, and the boss, Michael Fellenzer, and a host of others. Thanks all!


Friday, September 18th 2015

The month of September will be bookended (if I might use that term) by trips to the sunshine.

First, there was an excellent journey into Southern California that began with a meeting with Mark Herman in Los Angeles for very preliminary discussions on the 2018 convention plans; the great news that the 5-manual Möller at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium is garnering some very positive attention; and included a visit with the current and former “bosses” of all things theatre organ at the Nethercutt Collection, Kyle Irwin and Gordon Belt.

There was also a wonderful visit with Dr. Bill Worden who has been a strong supporter of the International Youth Silent Film Festival. Always fun to play Dr. Bill’s wonderful Allen GW 4.

I also took advantage of the geography and visited with ATOS’rs Peter Crotty (now a member of the Endowment Fund Board of Trustees) and Larry Grundy, great supporter of the Summer Youth Adventure.

The trip concluded with stops in the desert—where a number of ATOS members are now calling the Palm Springs area home, and they have added digital theatre organs to the surroundings. I had the chance to visit and play Larry Chew’s 3-manual Allen LLQ; and David Quinn’s highly decorated GW 4 (see photos).

Both visits were fun. The organs sound excellent. And along with Jack Gustafson’s delightful residence pipe organ, there is growing activity in the area, and we keep suggesting it might be time for a new chapter out there. How about it, folks?

Meanwhile, after a few days back home in Atlanta, I am off to Florida. I will be performing at the wonderful Wurlitzer at the Grace Church in Sarasota. That’s a Sunday afternoon Manasota chapter meeting. Following that, a Monday will find myself, Mike Kinerk the ATOS Convention Planning Coordinator, along with Cliff Shafer and Vince Mirandi (co-chairs of the upcoming Tampa convention in 2017), involved in convention meetings all day long with various potential venues and management for that gathering.

I will spend Tuesday in Jacksonville with the ATOS Interim Operations Manager Mark Renwick, as we go over much of the new operations re-structuring, including job descriptions, contracts, potential changes in several areas and more that Mark is making his major focus. Much of what Mark is attending to relates directly to initiatives stemming from the ATOS Retreat.

The trip will also include a stop for a performance at the Kirk of Dunedin, undergoing major changes in its longstanding series that dates back more than 40 years. I will be honored to share the bench with Terry Charles, who has been the driving force for all those years. More on that later.

Finally, I will take a few days of personal time and enjoy a Double family reunion. The six boys of Art and Kay Double have not been together since the passing of my Dad some seven years ago. With three of the six living in the greater Tampa Bay area, and my being down there, the other two (one in Chicago and one in Durango, CO) will make the journey for a lot of laughs.

One last note, I just recorded a new two-hour webcast for Theatre Organ Radio.
It will air starting October 5 for one full week. Check the website for times, as they will vary to accommodate our world-wide audience. The reason for the one-year hiatus was simple. We needed studio space and the fine folks at Cox Broadcasting and WSB Radio have been generous to offer us a home. Broadcast engineer Tim Stephens (Atlanta chapter member) makes the job easy, and Theatre Organ Radio programming and music guru Steve Worthington helps put it all together. Our special guest for this return to the web will be Clark Wilson.

I hope the regular listeners to ATOS Theatre Organ Radio will enjoy the return of this show, now named Pipes, Pops, and the Pros Who Make the Music.

Til next time, get to a concert, find us a new member, and support your local efforts to bring the theatre organ to the public!

Ken Double, President/CE

Saturday, August 29th 2015


What do London, England, St. Louis, Missouri and Auckland, New Zealand have in common? Singularly great theatre organ concerts, with huge audiences, putting the spotlight squarely on the instrument we love.

On Saturday night, August 22nd, our friends in the Cinema Organ Society unveiled the famous Trocadero Wurlitzer organ in its new home in Stepney, east London – The Troxy. Richard Hills and Robert Wolfe provided the entertainment to a sold-out house, enthralled by the grand sounds of the largest Wurlitzer the company shipped to England.

After five years of labor, fundraising that generated nearly $300,000, and with the benefit of tremendous media coverage, this concert was sensational. What splendid way to introduce this great organ in its new home.

The next day, and thousands of miles to the west, Jack Moelmann once again played impresario. As he did at Radio City Music Hall, Jack rented the massive St. Louis Fox Theatre, hired Walt Strony and Lew Williams to join him, and staged a three-hour extravaganza of music, silent film, sing-a-long, and flag-waving as only Jack knows how to do.

Wonder of wonders, they had to hold the show so the crowd lined up around the block could get in and not miss a note. Some 2,000 were in attendance!!!

The concert was in part a tribute to the great Stan Kann, the master entertainer who held court at the Fox for years. Kudos to Al Haker and crew for getting the 4/36 1928 Wurlitzer through the event without the first miscue.

Now fast forward one week, and travel farther to the west – as in half way around the world – and we come to Auckland, New Zealand and the Hollywood Theatre. The Wurlitzer Organ Trust, headed up by James Duncan, has staged concerts at the Hollywood Theatre for some 30 years. In the late 90’s a serious undertaking found the instrument enlarged to 3 manuals and 16 ranks, providing a glorious sound in the neighborhood theatre.

Duncan and crew have worked very hard over the years to generate a growing, steady audience for the concerts, but just recently learned the theatre would be sold, and more than likely, the organ would have to be removed.

This coming weekend, with Jelani Eddington in concert, will most likely be the final theatre organ concerts at the Hollywood Theatre. As the story got out and the media took hold, the concert quickly sold out, thus a second show was added. It is nearly sold out.

This is vital in that the price tag for proper removal and anticipated storage of the organ could exceed $50,000. The Trust is seeking donations from every corner of the theatre organ world, and from government and philanthropic agencies in New Zealand. Our friends at TOSA, the Theatre Organ Society of Australia (who just celebrated the 50th anniversary of THAT great organization!), have pledged their support both in dollars and in labor.

Negotiations on every front are ongoing, but an anticipated deadline of September 30th for removal of the organ makes this situation beyond urgent.

Can the Trust executives find a new home? Will the organ need long-range storage?
Might the fast-approaching deadline be extended by new owners of the theatre?

All of this and more is still hanging in the balance, like a silent-movie melodrama awaiting the hero’s entrance to save the day! We wish James Duncan and all a grand piece of good fortune soon, and a great success this coming weekend.

And we congratulate all at COS in Great Britain for their spectacular debut of the Troxy Wurlitzer, and Jack Moelmann and friends for the tremendous success enjoyed at the St. Louis Fox.

Indeed…what a week for the instrument and the music we love!

I’ll update on the Hollywood situation when news becomes available, and will have more for you soon!

Ken Double
Atlanta, GA

Friday, August 28th 2015


As I write this from hot, humid, rainy Atlanta, I realize I shouldn’t complain. I heard on this morning’s news that some parts of California are literally sinking because so much water is being pumped out of the ground, and this never-ending drought is not offering any rainwater to replenish the supply. Difficult to imagine save for those who remember the Dust Bowl!

Enough of that!!

Big events coming. Our friends in Great Britain have perhaps the most exciting premiere of a new theatre organ installation since the heady days of the 20’s and 30’s. The former Trocadero Wurlitzer – the largest Wurlitzer shipped to England – opens in its new home at the Troxy, and we are exited for all across the pond.

Years of fund raising and hard work; wonderful cooperation with grand management and ownership; and a headlining opening night featuring Robert Wolfe and Richard Hills; it is sure to be a sensational night, and we offer the “break a leg” greeting that suits all show business.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Jack Moelmann will be putting on his big show at the Fox, with Walt Strony and Lew Williams sharing the bill and the bench of that great 4/36 Wurlitzer. The concert will honor the memory of the great Stan Kann, a true St. Louis legend for his years at the Fox, his fame on radio and television, and his career as a comedian built around his hilarious antics with the antique vacuum cleaners. We hope it’s a huge crowd at the Fox for this great event!

This coming Tuesday night at 8:30 Eastern Time, ATOS will be hosting its second Chapter Leaders Conference Call. The initial call last month found some 26 chapters represented with a myriad of topics discussed. For chapter leaders – if you were not on the call or did not receive the notice for the Go To Meeting computer connection – contact me at k.double [at] or feel free to phone at 404-790-5400, and we will be sure to add you to the list. I will be hosting again, and as last time, we will have a couple of topics from ATOS, and then open the floor for questions and topics from the chapter representatives. If you are a chapter officer – President/Chairman, Vice President/Vice Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer – you are welcomed to be on the call with us. ATOS Chairman Michael Fellenzer will join us on the call.

The major committees at work post-retreat are continuing their efforts. Mark Renwick is providing a tremendous amount of assistance in his role as Interim Operations Manager. Treasurer Lee Lanier and new Financial Administrator Norma Smith have begun their work on several ATOS financial matters. There will be much to announce soon on several fronts, including Communications, Finance and Bylaws.

Meanwhile, Mike Bryant and Don Feely, along with Graphic Designer Dannielle Stark have just completed production of the “toughest” journal of the year – the Convention Review Issue.
In the old days, we did not see the convention review until November – well after the fact.
Now, with a lot of burning of the midnight oil, our editors manage to get the convention review completed in record time to hit the September newsstands – or your mailboxes as the case may be - and it will be terrific after that wonderful Philadelphia/DTOS event.

Finally, the convention CD production is ongoing and near complete. This is for BOTH the much-delayed Indianapolis recording; and the new Philadelphia recording. This is one of the areas that Mark Renwick jumped into and wrestled into submission – positively! You will know more officially on this in the next few weeks.

Personally, I have had the privilege of performing on the Atlanta Fox’s Mighty Mo for a “Legends” event, honoring the great pipe organ as part of the Fox’s celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Saving of the Fox – a summer long festival of events.

The Atlanta chapter played host recently to young Justin LaVoie, and his sparkling concerts at the Rylander Moller organ in Americus, and at the annual Bucky Reddish Birthday Bash were sensational. His Monday morning visit to Mighty Mo prior to his departure was equally as thrilling. It’s fun when we can sneak in to the great theatre and give Mo a whirl with a visiting artist. Sometimes the schedule allows, sometimes not, but when it does, it’s awesome.

I hope you are enjoying great theatre organ wherever you are!! Will look forward to a Tuesday meeting with our chapter reps, and with a visit with you all again soon!


Ken Double, President/CE

Sunday, February 15th 2015

Hi to all, and I hope wherever you are, you are surviving the wintry weather.

I’m in Atlanta, and our immediate future forecast predicts lows in the teens, highs to barely reach 30. At least we are not shoveling out from under the many feet of snow that has devastated our friends in Chicago, Massachusetts, and all points in between and beyond.

There is all kinds of news to report. The ATOS Board of Directors held its mid-year meeting by teleconference February 7th and covered many topics. Much of our focus these days stems from recommendations coming out of last fall’s Retreat in St. Louis. What we call “Retreat Forward” involves much of the following:

  • Jack Moelmann heads the Transition/Bylaws and Policies effort. The board OK’d Jack’s initial update of ATOS policies, which eliminated several policies that due to circumstances were simply no longer applicable. The bylaws will also get a thorough review with suggestions for updating.
  • Mark Renwick of Jacksonville heads up the Finance Committee. His group is looking at all aspects of ATOS finances, from how we are currently investing our money; the overall budget process; the structure for managing finances and more. One major recommendation from the retreat event involves adding a professional position of Financial Administrator. ATOS has moved far beyond the point of having a volunteer treasurer handle the books. We have assets of nearly $2 million. That level of financial growth needs professional oversight, and we are moving in that direction. Treasurer Mike Hutcherson is stepping down this July after doing spectacular work in reorganization.
  • A new Communications Committee is being created to see how we best marry our journal, the website, the modern world of Facebook and Twitter and all that is social media, and position ATOS well in this different, exciting environment. Communications involves much more. We need to get in front of our chapters and our members and their chapter leadership in a much more productive way, and this is being explored, as well.
  • The overall management structure of ATOS changed as of January 1. In an attempt to continue the transition to a more professional organization, some management tasks are now being handled by the President/CE, with an organizational structure that makes more management sense. Day-to-day “Operations” falls into this category, while the board of directors will be more responsible for the larger “Management” aspect of ATOS. We are making progress in this area.

Other news – ATOS fundraising is enjoying a most successful period. The Annual Drive event is drawing record support – and that is thanks to one entity – our members! The Annual Drive has generated more than $31,000 in donations to date, almost 30% greater than any previous year and more than 50% greater than last year. We cannot say “Thank You” enough for your generous support and your interest in our programs.

In addition to those wonderful gifts, the estate of Kenelm Lufkin has generated a new gift of $41,000 (this a wonderful addition to that miraculous gift of $900,000 ATOS received five years ago). And the estate of Robert F. Mertz has notified ATOS that a gift of $115,000, earmarked for the Endowment Fund, will be forthcoming. This follows his previous gift of $100,000, so generously donated three years ago.

My week was busy, concluding with a visit to Savannah, GA. There is a project in development that is to include installation of a theatre pipe organ – a project so exciting and with great potential for more such installations around the country – that I left Savannah feeling as if I was flying over Interstates 16 and 75 instead of driving on them. More to come on this soon.

The board took action on the general elimination of written (or “secret”) ballots except in certain specific cases where privacy is warranted.

More than 100 are signed up for the Philadelphia convention for this July, and that is a very good attendance number to date, right in line with the recent successful conventions in Atlanta and Indianapolis. A suggestion – if you are planning to attend, and go to preglow and afterglow events – get your room reservations booked ASAP! Philadelphia at Fourth of July is a major destination. The hotel will fill up – especially those extra dates before and after the convention-proper – and it would be wise to get your room reservation in as soon as possible. It is all easily accomplished on the ATOS website:

John Ledwon offers two important reminders, both with deadlines of April 15th.
For those young players wishing to participate in the YTOC – the Young Theatre Organists Competition staged during the convention – your submissions are due no later than April 15th. See the website, the next journal, or contact John directly for more information (j.ledown [at]

Also, if your chapter or group has a project that might benefit from a grant from the ATOS Endowment Fund, the deadline for applying is also April 15th. All this and taxes too! Yikes! Again, the March-April journal will have more information.

Donna Parker reports a slight uptick in ATOS membership. How about that for good news! From month-to-month, depending on renewals, the membership number fluctuates, and we were concerned as it dipped under 2300. Today, it is just under 2400, and that is a good sign of some recent growth.

Vice Chairman Bill Coale’s efforts on posting news on our ATOS Facebook page is generating an amazing number of “hits” and more importantly, “likes.” This is that mysterious world of social media that is so vital to reaching out to new and younger people. And, our Theatre Organ Radio listenership, and the “time spent listening” has more than doubled over the past several months, according to Steve Worthington.

Plenty to write about, talk about, text and email about! And so much of it good news. ‘Til we chat again, stay warm, enjoy the music, and bring in a new member!

Ken Double

Friday, November 21st 2014

It was an experiment that proved successful.

After many years of the popular Summer Youth Adventure, once again ATOS was asked by the adult players among our members, “Hey, where’s our program like that?”

With Jonas Nordwall leading the way, ATOS organized the STEP UP YOUR PLAYING program aimed at adult players hoping to learn playing tips and techniques from the “pros.” The teaching team included Jonas, ATOS President Ken Double (who happened to have scheduled a California trip, and thus, was conveniently on hand), Donna Parker (who happened to be in the area, scheduled for a concert for the San Diego chapter), and Cheryl Seppala, who along with husband Wayne are the Allen Organ dealers in the San Diego area.

The events were staged November 9th and 10th at two splendid home installations in North San Diego county. Longtime ATOS member and organ owner Peter Crotty opened his home and offered his 3/40 Wurlitzer organ as one teaching venue. And his friend Larry Grundy also kindly opened his home and studio wherein resides a wonderful 4/20 Robert-Morton/hybrid theatre organ.

There were four major coaching sessions, with the specific musical focus being Christmas holiday music, since that is on the horizon. There was also some “jam session” open console time for the group. And the gathering concluded with the Donna Parker concert at Trinity Church on the Theatre Organ Society of San Diego’s four-manual Wurlitzer organ.

While initially it was expected 13 would attend, last-minute cancellations saw nine attendees participate, ready to learn and try out some ideas. There was benefit to the lower number. Everyone remained together at all sessions, and there was more playing time available. However, it is hoped future events will draw more attendees.

The initial reaction from the “students” was excellent, and Jonas and the team are eagerly awaiting the full reports and evaluations back from them to help prepare for another such event next year.

When this was scheduled, organizers promised the ATOS board that the event would pay for itself, which it did by a whopping $10!!! That, thanks to the hospitality and generosity of the two hosts, Messrs. Crotty and Grundy.

It was fun. It was educational. It was beneficial. And there is every reason to do it again. Look for more in an upcoming issue of the journal. And look for promotional materials next spring and summer, and at the convention in Philadelphia, as we prepare for Year Two of the STEP UP YOUR PLAYING adult weekend seminar.

November 21, 2014 By Ken Double

Friday, November 21st 2014

I am home, getting ready to enjoy Thanksgiving with friends in Atlanta, and reflecting on the better part of the past 30 days spent on the road. Lots of things to reflect on, including:

  • One new Chapter (Old Dominion, Richmond VA) going strong and one potential chapter to be added
  • A pledge from people who make things happen there to renovate the Mosque organ in Richmond (now the Altria Theatre)
  • Progress on the historic Byrd Theatre Wurlitzer as work progresses and fundraising continues
  • A concerted effort to find new homes for organs, with two brand new potential venues, and one upcoming theatre restoration showing interest from management in installing pipe organs
  • Renewed efforts on the fundraising front with some good news soon to report
  • A most successful “Step Up Your Playing” event in San Diego, with some of our adult players getting a weekend of instruction to help improve their playing skills – and more to come on this front for future events
  • The Annual Drive underway
  • The Retreat Forward process progressing with steps moving forward, and committees at work.

    There is more travel ahead including a post-Thanksgiving weekend in Indiana with programs at the wonderful “Firehouse Pipes,” Dick and Linda Wilcox’s Page installation in Union City, IN this coming Saturday, and a program at the Warren Center Barton in Indianapolis on Sunday.

    This is an interesting date. Officials at Warren Performing Arts Center decided to produce their own holiday show. They added this performance to their regular schedule of concert productions in their series, and as of this writing, about 10 days ahead of the concert, 350 tickets have been sold in advance.

    In recent months we have witnessed a concert in Omaha draw over 500; two silent films in Chattanooga draw over 600 each; the screening of the silent film Phantom of the Opera draw nearly 2000 in Seattle; Russ Peck’s silent film programs drawing over 600 regularly at the Copley Hall (former Fox Theatre) in San Diego.

    Why? Good, sound marketing and promotions. If this doesn’t tell us something about the fact that, “Yes, Virginia, there IS an audience out there for this,” then we are NOT paying attention.

    If you are doing the same old things over and over, and wondering why nobody is coming, then perhaps the same old things don’t work.

    If you are not investing in marketing and promotion, and more importantly, taking advantage of the FREE marketing available via Facebook, Twitter and the social media that young people live in, you are missing an obvious marketing opportunity.

    We will explore this in depth in upcoming issues of the journal in an effort to both educate and assist our local chapters in taking better care of the promotional side of our concert efforts. It is guaranteed that 100% of the people who have no idea we are staging a concert WILL NOT ATTEND THE EVENT!!!

    Have a great Thanksgiving. Say a little prayer for our friends in upstate New York.
    Their snow season just began. 70-plus inches on the ground and months more to come. Yikes.

    Will chat again soon.

    Ken Double, President/CE
    November 21, 2014

Tuesday, January 7th 2014

Ken Double’s Blog
January 7, 2014

Hello New Year – Good-bye Pounds!!

So have you written any checks yet, and put “2013” on the date line?
And have you dared to venture on to the scale so soon after the holidays?
And for the 187 million of us humans stung by the “Arctic Vortex,” have you ventured outside much? GADS!!

Regarding reacquainting myself with my bathroom scale, I will do just that – but not for a few more days after the final “going out with friends” and the last of the big meals. I have already started on the fresh-fruit-for-breakfast routine because my waistline, belt notches and other indicators clearly suggest I have consumed WAY too many calories.

Oh well. I had a lot of fun.

A group of us from Atlanta drove over to Birmingham Sunday to hear ATOS’ legal advisor, and fine theatre organist, Dolton McAlpin put Big Bertha through its paces. This was great fun. Dolton plays with a most listenable style, and the company of our friends to the west is always wonderful.

We are also brought along a xylophone in need of rebuilding, and this great relationship between the Atlanta Chapter and the Alabama Chapter allows us the great benefit of sharing expertise. In this case, Larry Donaldson and his great crew are going to help us with this piece of our Page organ at Stephenson High School.

It’s been good to be home for a while, but travel starts again soon. A quick stop in the San Francisco Bay area is on tap in a couple of weeks. Then, February 8th I have the distinct pleasure of my second concert on what Simon Gledhill dubbed the “King Kong” of Wurlitzers, at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA.

I will be joined by my trumpet-playing friend Skip Stine, and his most talented vocalist/wife Cathy Chemi, both alums of the Harry James Orchestra. These shows are so very much fun. I just hope the worst of the weather will be out of the way.

While I have spoiled myself down here in Atlanta, we do get winter, too. As I write this January 7, Atlanta set records at just 4-degrees in the early morning. And yet, the weatherman says 61 and rainy on Saturday. Go figure.

There is a lot of interesting “stuff” going on all over ATOS-land. Much of this stuff revolves around rumor. Thus, I don’t want to write much about it. Oh, where is the late Tom B’hend when you need him? In his heyday, Tom published the monthly newsletter/muckraking rag he dubbed The Console. And never one to necessarily let facts get in the way of “dirt,” but also seeming to have a line on all the organists and all the instruments, his monthly gossipy missive was great reading. (Gads, how he loved to stir the pot!)

Our friend Bucky Reddish has a huge collection of back issues, and it is a hoot to flip through some of these; see pictures of many of my friends when they were younger, thinner and “of hair;” and simply smile and giggle a lot.

We have the Indianapolis convention this summer; Summer Youth Adventure and Technical Experience events; amazing projects in London, Australia, and across the U.S.; major instruments needing homes; and a slew of great concerts seeking audiences.

And here is a New Year’s resolution we should all make and work hard to keep: make it a point to get at least two new members to join ATOS and your local chapter, and personally sell at least 4 tickets to the next concert or silent film in your area. Can you imagine the impact we would make on our musical world if our 3,000 members (way over 4,000 counting wives, family and others within the “membership”), would act on THAT resolution?

I hope 2014 is a great year for ATOS, all of you members, and your chapters around the world.

More soon. Maybe even some juicy rumors. LOL, as they write.

Take care, stay warm, and Happy New Year indeed!


Saturday, December 7th 2013

Ice cold and snow, but hot music in a hot location. That's one way to describe my latest wanderings, this time back to Indiana. Dick and Linda Wilcox, the owners of Uniflex 3000 relay systems, moved to delightful Union City, IN, so named because the state line dividing Indiana and Ohio runs right through the heart of town. (Not unlike another theatre organ friendly town, Bristol, TN).

Ingratiating themselves into the community immediately, the organ-loving couple bought the old fire house, and soon Dick was at work installing a three-manual Page organ, and creating quite a musical stir in the community. Friday night, December 6th, I had the privilege of performing the inaugural formal concert, a fund-raiser for the area's Preservation Society, and a program called "Shop with a Cop" which pairs young children with a local police officer, with donated dollars allowing the kids to do some Christmas shopping for loved ones who might otherwise not have a gift under a tree. Great concept!!

The fire house is split in half...the back half housing Dick's 3/11 Page, and his "shop." This organ is the experimental instrument upon which Dick develops his new concepts for the Uniflex relay systems. I told our audience they were in the theatre organ world's answer to "Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory."

More than 60 brave souls sat in the front half (it can comfortably seat about 80 for a concert), which has become somewhat of a community center. Brave in that they fought off frigid temperatures and a snowstorm to enjoy the evening of musical entertainment, and get an "up close and personal" look and listen to this musical wonder. Plexi-glass shutters from the old Paramount Music Palace in Indianapolis allow listeners to see what makes it tick. It's a fun organ to play. We had a great time. And did some good in this small town that has a great interest in art, music, preservation and community spirit.

Sunday I have the pleasure of getting reacquainted with one of my favorite instruments - the 3/18 Barton at the Warren Performing Arts Center, where I will join my friends in the Central Indiana Chapter for their annual holiday chapter meeting. Business in Lafayette and in Chicago will conclude this trip, and thank heaven. I've logged tens of thousands of travel miles since September, and will be happy to be home for a while.

The ATOS board meets this Wednesday night by conference call with a busy agenda as we move toward the major mid-year meeting.

I hope you are enjoying the holidays...surviving the crazy weather that seems to be everywhere...and we will chat in the forum again soon.

Ken Double