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

Tuesday, August 28th 2012

Greetings all.


News of new venues and not-so-new venues … had meetings recently in a location that holds promise, including the potential of an “original” Wurlitzer going back home.


Meanwhile, mid-September will find TOSDV… the Theatre Organ Society of Delaware Valley playing host to its formal Grand Opening Concert.  The specific date is September 15, and Mark Herman will do the honors.  You know the youngsters have arrived when they are asked to play the premiere!!  Mark will do a spectacular job.


The organ is Wurlitzer Opus 585, now a 3/24 in the Colonial Theatre….yes, Virginia, THAT Colonial Theatre that used to house the big four-manual Kimball.  Wayne Zimmerman and his compatriots have been patient, hard-working, and about to get their rewards with this big night in September.  We wish them well, a HUGE opening night crowd, nary the first cipher, and a spectacular night.


Heading “back home again in Indiana,” I will have the privilege of sharing the stage with a talented young performer I hope has the chance to “get heard” more often.

The concert is September 9th at the Warren Performing Arts Center.  The 3/18 former Indiana Theatre Barton is a favorite organ to play.  Justin Stahl is a fine young player and he gets a “cameo” appearance during the concert, and a chance to shine in front of what we hope will be a big crowd at Warren.


I have had the privilege of providing some console time for many young players.  Even Jelani Eddington did a cameo as a teenager during one of my shows at Long Center in Lafayette, and it’s great to give a young player, or perhaps a new player who is not-so-young, an opportunity to test the performance waters without the pressure of a full concert.


Meanwhile, a couple of items of note in terms of ATOS business.  Several members have been working with board member Don Phipps, collecting information on our chapters. This will give us a clear picture of not only how many chapters are actually in operation, but the level of operation.  Step Two will be good, direct communication to better get a handle on how to provide specific help in specific areas.  (Example…look for an article in the journal about insurance for chapters and for instruments.  This is an important area perhaps overlooked…OR…just a good reminder to double-check current insurance levels on instruments, etc.)


Also, all members will soon be receiving a letter and a ballot question to be voted on, the question concerning Voting Rights of Board Members.  It will be in the mail very soon.


As we get into the end of summer, past Labor Day, and into the fall season, a lot of our chapters are gearing up to resume concerts, and we wish them success and hope you will support them.


Finally – what is something simple you can do to help ATOS?  Give a gift membership.  I did just that for a “Birthday Girl” in Atlanta, and now Carolyn Wills is back in the fold, and I have another one to do.


Imagine if 10%...or better yet, 20% of us would simply give a friend a gift membership?  That – i.e. 20% of us doing this - would add more than 600 members to the national rolls with the prospect that many of them would maintain their memberships after the first year.  Now wouldn’t THAT turn around the membership trend?  Trust me, Donna Parker in her new role as Membership Secretary would welcome the work!!


Finally, due to odd scheduling quirks with Steve Worthington out of the country and Tim Stephens and I both involved in some odd travels, our two-hour show on Theatre Organ Radio which should begin Sept 2 will be delayed one week to Sept. 9th.  Won’t want to miss 2012 Organist of the Year, Mark Herman as our special guest.


Til next week!



Monday, August 20th 2012

Youth still being served – Birthday Cake!

It was an amazing weekend of music in Atlanta, thanks to Bucky Reddish who knows how to throw himself a birthday party.
“Bucky’s Big Birthday Bash” is an event he has staged in his Atlanta-area home for several years. It went from a fun day of theatre organ music featuring his Walker organ to multi-artist spectacular a few years ago when Bucky decided that his 60th birthday demanded something special.
Multiple artists – mini-concerts – great food, music and fun, and this year was amazing. The concert entertainment began with Dave Wickerham. After his 30 minutes of music, it was Donnie Rankin’s turn at the console. Then Jelani Eddington performed. After a brief intermission, along came the young Scotland native David Gray . The formal program concluded with Mark Herman. Talk about a WOW moment. Or better yet, several of them.  Your blogger provided some of what Spike Jones called “Dinner music for people who AREN”T very hungry,” making it an even half-dozen performers.
Larry Davis did the introduction and called it the Reddish “one-day ATOS Regional.”
Other funnies uttered during the event included the clever Larry Davis following Jelani Eddington’s performance of the march The Youth of Britain, introducing the REAL youth of Britain, David Gray.
Shortly after that, David Gray introduced his transcription of A Night on Bald Mountain saying, “I hope you will enjoy this…well, you’d BETTER enjoy it, I’ve worked hard enough on it!” Hilarious admonition that only a 21-year-old could get away with.
Mark Herman, commenting on all the fine players…and then referencing their ages. Mark in his mid-20’s…David now 21…Donnie is 21….it then got to “Dave Wickerham is still young….so is Jelani….and, oh, Hi Ken!!” I was the obvious elder statesman of the group, and felt compelled to respond that young Mr. Herman could only wish to look as good as I when he reaches 60! On second thought, that Hollywood smile of his will keep him looking youthful forever!
It was amazing to watch the other artists watch the other artists. There were some jaw-dropping moments provided by everyone, but I was enjoying watching Dave Wickerham’s reactions. Dave simply takes great joy in great music, whether he is providing the moment or he is enjoying someone else do the honors. And he sat there with an ear-to-ear grin while watching the kids wow us all.
Herman – 2012 Organist of the Year; Rankin – a growing concert artist with a most distinctive approach; David Gray – we have not heard him play a lot of theatre organ lately, but he’s been hopscotching the US all summer, and oh boy, has he grown as a musician. His studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music focus on piano, and he is absolutely brilliant, and for our benefit carrying that spectacular piano skill over to the horseshoe console.
It was a special weekend in Atlanta, and I was privileged to be a part of it.
Meanwhile, while we celebrated a birthday and the youth of ATOS, we take a moment to mourn the passing of one of the greatest pipe organ talents ever.
Carlo Curley passed away last week. He had not yet reached age 60.
While not a theatre organist per se, he loved the theatre organ. I saw him share the bill with Lyn Larsen more than once, and Carlo could entertain with the best of them. There are few who can carry the torch set forth by the late Virgil Fox, who brought classical organ music to the masses, but certainly Carlo Curley was able to accomplish that as well in a spectacular career that saw him perform the world over.
Thank you, Carlo, for sharing your gifts.
We will be sending another email message to ATOS members very soon with plenty to discuss. Don Phipps, Bob Evans, Tim Needler, Jack Moelmann and others are completing a full survey of all ATOS chapters to update our chapter list; know who is active and who is not these days; and generate an updated data base which will help us serve the organization better. Messrs. Phipps and Evans made this a high priority item coming out of the convention.
I hope you are enjoying these little missives. I am hitting the road again soon and will be reporting in from various locations around the country. I hope our paths might cross during my travels. Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin coming up.
California, Oregon, Washington, Florida before the year is out. I’ll keep the bags packed and be sure to take off my shoes and belt when I go through the scanner!
Monday, August 13th 2012

Well I knew it was hot in Norman, OK, but it wasn’t until the Technical Experience event last week that I could literally compare it to a bake oven.

While working on pallets for repairs on a chest, individual parts were being stripped and shellacked. These small components were then placed on a sheet laying on a general cafeteria-style food tray. To aid in the drying process, the tray was actually PLACED ON THE SIDEWALK OUTSIDE THE AOI shop building!!!!!
Couldn’t do that here in Atlanta! It’s so humid it would never dry. In the 108-degree heat in Norman, it worked in about five minutes!
I don’t want to say that was my lasting memory of Year Three of the ATOS Technical Experience, but it was one of them. Hats off to Allen Miller who had to overcome some staffing issues that arose late in the process and yet executed a terrific event. You will see more in detail in an upcoming journal and here on line, but the attendees had some good “hands-on” experience on several levels, and hopefully came away with having enjoyed themselves and learned a lot.
It would be foolish to attempt to either rate or compare the Summer Youth Adventure vs. the Technical Experience. Both are vitally important programs, and my experience in attending each in the past three weeks has been simply marvelous.
But we must be clear on one thing…there are no organs to play if there are no technicians to care for them.
In the fantasies of the ATOS future, I envision the time that we have multiple Technical Experience events staged annually across the country. We have great potential in making the University of Oklahoma somewhat of a “home base,” what with its fantastic facility and its educational structure.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be having similar events in the east, out west, elsewhere in the Midwest, providing the opportunity for pipe organ owners to learn; for young “techies” interested to get a start, and for the classically trained installers and technicians to learn about the differences and intricacies of the theatre organ.
No, Allen, I don’t want to work you to death!! I simply hope we can expand this important program at some point down the road.
Meanwhile, sincerest thanks to board member Don Phipps for attending and assisting; to Jon and Meredith Sibley for their terrific support; for all the attendees; to Richard Neidich who handles the video and photographic work which will eventually end up in articles and demo-type “how-to” videos; and finally, to Dr. John Schwandt, Jeremy Wance, John Reister and Dan Sliger whose support and assistance was vital to the success of the event. The staff at the American Organ Institute (our partners with the Archive and Library) went out of their way to make this a successful event. And to Allen for a great job again. Well done, all!!!
On an completely other topic or two….birthdays! Board member Bucky Reddish is going to have his annual Birthday Bash this coming weekend, always a festive event.
I had the opportunity to host good friend and Atlanta Fox board member Carolyn Wills – who celebrates her birthday for a WHOLE WEEK or more – and several of her friends for a party that focused on entertainment on the theatre organ.
This is a good way to cultivate new members. Invite guests….entertain them and educate them…then send them home with a DVD, a CD or a copy of the journal.
Then call them and suggest they join. If done in the surroundings of a fun party, it is an instantly enjoyable experience which might help convince them to become part of our ATOS family.
For many, you have now seen the first of our ATOS-wide email messages. They will come to you monthly…at least to start. And for those who have responded positively, thanks for that!!! It IS a good way to communicate directly with the members.
Take care.
Wednesday, August 8th 2012

As happens a lot, I find myself at an airport; this time it's Denver's international airport which geographically might be closer to Salt Lake City (there's a joke there about how far out of town they built this terminal) - and I thought of ATOSer Lee Shaw. Lee was honored at this year's convention banquet, and rightfully so. There are a lot of wonderful people in the chapter centered in Denver and Colorado Springs, but there are few (not only there but anywhere) who do so many different things to help the chapter.

From booking artists, to hanging lights and sweeping floors, playing chauffeur and host, and offering some of the most distinctive and unusual monikers for concert performances, Lee literally does it all for the Rocky Mountain chapter, and has had a tremendous impact on the world of the theatre organ in this part of the country.

Of particular note are the "Stripes and Pipes" concerts showcasing the dual consoles of the Denver Paramount Theatre's Mighty Wurlitzer, in conjunction with one of the Armed Forces bands. Thousands have filled the Paramount to enjoy these events, enjoy this music and thrill to the sounds of the Wurlitzer theatre organ.

Meanwhile, I'm putting the finishing touches on a few major items for ATOS.

We will be hiring an IT Manager to oversee the ATOS website and IT operations, a job which will be posted on the website and in the journal soon. And we will also be hiring a Grants Writer to assist our efforts to generate funds.

One might ask, "Why are we hiring? Why can't we find volunteers?"

We have a lot of terrific volunteers who do a lot of great work for ATOS. But the very nature of volunteerism - people serving in an effort to help - sometimes makes it difficult to "put the hammer down" when deadlines and other issues become apparent.

Our website and the various other aspects of Internet Technology will clearly be the future of expanding ATOS and acquiring a new audience. Do we marvel at what has been achieved in the past ten years with the internet, cell phones, and what is known as Social Media? Imagine what fantastic changes we will see in the ten years ahead!

This demands that ATOS begin to get more serious about this effort, and have someone, even if it is part-time at the start, to be at the helm and steering this effort, and reporting to management as a paid staff person.

The same for grants. We will soon be announcing two new major gifts for ATOS.

We continue to approach our membership about donations and more importantly for our future, Estate Planning gifts, which could be the life-blood of ATOS in the years ahead.

Revenue from grants - be it corporate philanthropy, foundations, government grants or other opportunities - can go hand in glove with our in-house efforts and pave the way forward underwriting our programs like the Summer Youth Adventure, the Technical Experience, the scholarships and other programs long into the future.

More importantly, once these philanthropic and corporate organizations begin to work with us, and learn about us, the better chance they will partner with us repeatedly, knowing their dollars have been spent for the good of our organization, and as earmarked.

Thus, it is important to have a professional individual, reporting to management, and working on grants on a regular basis.

These two positions, IT Manager and Grants Writer, will be part-time posts to begin, funding made possible by the redistribution of funds available when the Executive Secretary’s post was redefined as Membership Secretary.

It is the belief of many in the leadership that ATOS will be best served in the future having key positions such as these as paid team positions.

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 team…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

Tuesday, July 24th 2012

Greetings all, coming down from the post-convention “high.”  Great concerts in LA.  Never heard Scott Foppiano any better, and what an instrument he presented to us.
Caught Chris Elliot twice (Fullerton and Trousdale Castle); Tony Fenelon was splendid and gave us a chance to hear Lyn Larsen twice (with Tony at San Gabriel and also two tunes at Trousdale Castle).  The kids were sensational, as was the Barnum Hall Wurlitzer – thank you Gordon Belt and Henry Hunt.  And all who performed made it musically one of our best ever!!

And from my standpoint, a “glitch-free” convention.  Well done, Don, Ed, Bob et al because if there were problems, you solved them efficiently and quietly.

Congratulations to Mike Kinerk, Bucky Reddish, Mark Herman, the family of the late Stu Green, Paul Vandermolen, and all those who won awards, and most deservedly so.

BULLETIN!! (as they used to say in old time radio news!!)
Under the direction of board member Don Phipps, ATOS is going to canvas all chapters for updated information, status, and other details which will help us communicate better.

Part of this effort will be an “E-mail Blast” for those members who have provided us email contact information.

IMPORTANT NOTE!  We will NOT be distributing this email list to anyone.  It is our hope that as part of our move into the 21st Century, we might communicate with our members via 21st Century technology.  And of course, as we do our initial experiments, we will be mindful of those who might wish to not be included.  But I can’t think of a reason why our members wouldn’t want to hear from us once or twice a month on topics of importance.

And speaking of chapters, the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society has established itself as an ATOS chapter, and we welcome the Great Lakes Bay chapter (Saginaw and northern/northeastern Michigan) as our newest ATOS chapter.

We’ve got a special ballot initiative headed out to the members on definition of and  voting rights for certain board positions.  This is coming in the mail and is self-explanatory.

If you have not seen Jack Moelmann’s series of video interviews, they are fascinating informative, entertaining…and most importantly…they are now recorded for history and posterity…which will provide future generations with the background and history of so many ATOS significant individuals (and NOT just our concert artists!).
If you YouTube Jack Moelmann, you will find them.  The list is more than 20 and growing!

I am off to Wilmington, DE this Friday for the final days of the Summer Youth Adventure, and right after that, a few days in Norman, OK for a visit with those at the Technical Experience.

And before year’s end, we expect two significant announcements on fundraising efforts that will have long-range positive outcomes for ATOS.

Hope you are enjoying your summer.  And enjoying some good theatre organ music wherever you might be!  More soon.


Friday, April 22nd 2011

Greetings...and lots of little odds and ends to chat about, or rather “blog” about.

April 15th (or this year, April 18th) is not only tax day - and don’t get me started on the issues emanating from our nation’s capital - but it also marks a couple of deadline dates for ATOS.

Bucky Reddish is Chairman of the ATOS Endowment Fund Committee, and now has in his hands several requests for funds from the Fund. The committee will pour through these documents; make its recommendations; and soon ATOS will announce which groups will be receiving grants from the Endowment Fund to help with specific organ projects.

FYI - the Endowment Fund principle (the amount of money available from which the interest earned provides grant monies) is getting very close to the magic $1 million mark. Anyone care to provide a challenge grant to “get us over the top??”

Another deadline passed has to do with the election. The voting is over, although we always wait a few more days before tabulations begin to allow those ballots postmarked April 15 or sooner to actually work their way through the USPS. But it won’t be too long before we find out which three candidates for the board won election. Let the counting begin!!

If you have found this message, you have discovered the new-look ATOS website. It is really wonderful. So much easier to navigate. More information. More video and audio content. And it will soon get a LOT better. Thanks to Tom Blackwell, Tyler Morkin and a host of professionals and volunteers who worked hard for a very long time to bring this to fruition. It’s great!

Also via the website, Theatre Organ Radio (TOR). And a new wrinkle starting May 1. We will be airing a two-hour, “live-on-tape” show with yours truly playing host, spinning records, answering requests that come in via e-mail, interviews, promotions, features and a whole lot more. The plan is to air it on the first Sunday of each month in the evening Eastern time. Then, we will repeat it several times at different hours over the following several days so it hits just about everybody’s convenient listening time.

To that end, I want to offer initial “Thanks” to sponsor/underwriters of TOR. Once again, Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa is partnering with us. So is Jack Moelmann, who is simply providing underwriting support to do his part for ATOS, plus he is also providing a second “package” to promote Theatre Organ Society International. As it is with two gas stations operating at the same intersection, so it is with TOSI, ATOS, COS - the Cinema Organ Society in the UK, TOSA in Australia, the Trust in New Zealand, and even AGO, OHS and all of us promoting the King of Instruments. Our little corner of the musical world is too small to divide it up even further. We welcome all.

We invite businesses in related fields and individuals who wish to support TOR and its programming to contact us about sponsorship/underwriting of ATOS programs. I’m available at k.double [at]

Hundreds so far have signed up for the EMCATOS-hosted annual convention, headquartered at the Westin Hotel in Providence,RI. The 5-manual Wurlitzer at PPAC in Providence, the new 4-manual Phipps/Hanover installation in Worcester, the Shanklin Music Hall former Boston Metropolitan 4-manual Wurlitzer, the Babson College 4-manual Wurlitzer, and the historic Zeiterion and Stadium Theatre installations....GADS-ZOOKS what a lineup of great organs!!!! Hope you are adding your name to the roll of attendees. May 1st is the cutoff date for the discounted registration!!

Final note - heard young Indianapolis organist Justin Stahl perform for the Alabama chapter on Big Bertha, the 4/29 Wurlitzer organ at the gorgeous theatre in downtown Birmingham, and what a show he put on!!!! Wonderful arrangements. Some very new and modern music performed to great applause. Here is another wonderful talent along the lines of Jonathan Ortloff, Nathan Avakian, Donnie Rankin and others who guarantee great playing in our future!! (Or, our doddering old age, depending on what is written on one’s birth certificate!!)

Stay tuned for news about how John McCall might be a bigger hit at the Master’s golf tournament than Tiger Woods these days!!! Next on the Blog!!

Sign up a new member!!!! It’s half price, and thus so would be your renewal. Take somebody to a chapter meeting or better yet, a concert. Help your local chapter, which helps ATOS, too!!!! Here’s “bloggin’ at you, kid!”

Ken Double

Wednesday, March 23rd 2011

ATOS Prez Blog...March 25, 2011

As always, there is a lot going on with a lot of projects involving a lot of ATOS folks!
I have just wrapped up a visit to Massachusetts, and it’s been amazing. EMCATOS, the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter, is most definitely ready for this summer’s convention.
Bob Evans, Don Phipps, Len Beyersdorfer, Dick Hanverger, Bruce Hager and a whole bunch of the chapter’s enthusiastic members are right on schedule for what should be a fantastic convention.
While finishing a CD at the Babson College 4/17 Wurlitzer, I had a chance to get a sneak-peek at the new installation at the Hanover Center in Worcester. Since the Clark Wilson/Carlton Smith tonal finishing effort, this big 4/35 Wurlitzer, in an elegant, handsome setting, will be a spectacular venue (see article in current Theatre Organ).
The organ is BIG, rich, lush and wonderful.
More importantly, the Hanover’s Executive Director Troy Siebels is most definitely theatre organ friendly, and is showcasing the instrument for the public whenever possible. The convention concerts will mark the actual formal debut, but audiences have been treated to some pre-show music several times over the many months.
EMCATOS is going to a VERY busy chapter, because right after the convention, the Summer Youth Camp invades Massachusetts. And right after that, the Technical Experience (the second annual) comes to town. Yikes!!
My travels included a stop in Norman, OK and a chance to hear Simon Gledhill at the console of the University of Oklahoma’s “mini-Mo,” the 14-rank Moller theatre organ.
As usual, Simon was spectacular. 
Partnering with the Stan Kann Scholarship Fund (headed up by St. Louis Fox owner Mary Strauss), ATOS was pleased to present the first annual Stan Kann Scholarship award to Rachel Foster, a student at OU with a great interest in theatre organ and specifically silent film presentation. We look forward to this program and the annual scholarships, and cannot wait for the chance to hear new, budding talent come out of this program.
Speaking of budding talent, Indianapolis’ Justin Stahl played a wonderful chapter program at the Alabama Theatre’s “Big Bertha” in Birmingham, and really hit the high notes with new music. And I mean, like. BRAND NEW music that knocks the socks off of the 18-19-20 year olds who would never have believed one could play Africa and other tunes popular with the ipod set on a Wurlitzer.
Before the month is out, we will have the opportunity to welcome a brand new venue and brand new Barton organ into our midst. The Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald, GA (south and east of Macon about an hour or so) is managed by Jon Durkovic who LOVES the theatre organ. And better yet, he PLAYS the organ. March 26th will have marked the debut of a 3/18 Barton donated to the theatre by John Near. He rescued the original 3/10 from the Orpheum Theatre in his hometown of Galesburg, IL, installed it in the family home, and after some 40 years there, it was time to find the organ a new home.
Installation by the A. E. Schleuter Co. of Atlanta, headed up by John Tanner, with specifications by the multi-talented Jelani Eddington, who plays the premier concert.
After the trip to Fitzgerald, GA, I’ll be home for a bit working with fellow Atlanta chapter members as we prepare a bid for the 2013 ATOS convention.
All this while Strategic Planning continues to march forward...the new website is unveiled (as you see here)...and we prepare to launch a whole new program on Theatre Organ Radio. More on that soon!
Get to a concert! Take advantage of the half-price membership deal and bring a new member on board!! Help your chapter where you can. And get to EMCATOS-land for this summer’s convention!! Chat with you soon.
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 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!


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….