American Organ Academy

ABOUT US

Staff

Dr. John D. Schwandt

Dr. John D. Schwandt

Executive Director and Professor of Organ

John Schwandt began playing church services as well as tuning organs at the age of 12 and has held professorships at Indiana University and the University of Oklahoma. He is a passionate, creative teacher and a pioneer in an integrated interdisciplinary approach towards the organ craft and art in all its forms-performance, building, and maintenance. He has many successful students in the professional organ field and is proud of their accomplishments and contributions to the organ world. He has lived out his vision for future organ professionals combining technical expertise with performance art throughout his career. 

In 2006, he founded the American Organ Institute (AOI) at OU to preserve the uniquely American aspects of the pipe organ. This interdisciplinary program stressed skills such as improvisation, and liturgical organ playing, along with the established classical repertoire. Of particular emphasis was broad musical flexibility, especially as it is applied to the accompaniment of silent films and the performance of jazz and popular organ music. The AOI was also the only program in America with a fully equipped pipe organ workshop capable of building, maintaining, and restoring instruments, along with functioning as the laboratory for the organ technology curriculum. Students of Dr. Schwandt have won many of the premier organ competitions and have successful positions at major churches, educational institutions, and organ building firms across the country. 

John Schwandt is known for his considerable skills as a performer, improviser, church musician, teacher, as well as organ technician.  After 25 years in higher education, John Schwandt has started the American Organ Academy, a private and cooperative educational venture poised to meet the emerging needs of our changing world. 

Kate Tegtmeier

Kate Tegtmeier

Executive Administrator

Kate is the  Administrator for the Executive Director of the American Organ Academy, the Business Administrator at Schantz Organ Company and Zephyr Electric Organ Blower, and has her own virtual assistant business. She has worked in the for profit and non-profit sectors as a professional administrator and uses her creative and organizational talents to further the mission of the organizations for whom she works. 

Kate has been asked to be a presenter at Valparaiso University's Annual Institute of Liturgical Studies Conference in 2017 where she was part of a workshop on keeping Lay Leadership at the Heart of Worship. She also co-presented a workshop on renewing church publications at the 2017 Association of Lutheran Church Musicians National Biennial Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

Kate has a B.A. in Music and lives in Wooster, OH with her husband, Luke, and their fur-babies, Clawde Depussy, Béla Barktok, and Hildegard dog Bingen. In her spare time, she sings in various choirs, travels, reads, and spends time with her family and friends. 

Board Of Trustees

Jeffrey Dexter

Jeffrey Dexter

Vice President and Tonal Director of Schantz Organ Company

Jeffrey is the Vice-president and Tonal Director of Schantz Organ Company and has been with the company for 29 years. He is also past President of the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO), served on the board of the Organ Historical Society (OHS), and is co-Parish Musician of Zion Lutheran Church in Wooster, Ohio. He is a member of the Board of the American Organ Academy and serves as its secretary.

Charles Kegg

Charles Kegg

President and Artistic Director of Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Charles Kegg is President and Artistic Director of Kegg Pipe Organ Builders. He entered the field professionally in 1975 and established his company in 1985 after working for Schantz, Casavant, and A.R. Schopp’s Sons. He is a past President of the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO) and is presently Treasurer of AIO. He is a member of the Board of the American Organ Academy and serves as its treasurer.

Victor Schantz

Victor Schantz

President of Schantz Organ Company

Victor Schantz is the fourth generation of Schantz's to be involved in the organ building industry. He has been with the company since 1975 and has served in various roles. He currently serves as the President of Schantz Organ Company and Zephyr Electric Organ Blower Company.

David Schopp

David Schopp

President of A.R. Schopp's Sons, Inc.

David is the fourth generation of the Schopp family to be leading the company. He received his degree from the University of Tennessee. When he began working with the company, his primary focus was on voicing all types of reeds. Since that time he has developed expertise in this field and a well-earned reputation. David has been with A.R. Schopp's Sons since 1992. He enjoys reading and playing golf.

Robert Schopp

Robert Schopp

Past President of A.R. Schopp’s Sons, Inc.

Robert is the third generation of the Schopp family to be involved in the organ business.  He graduated from Northwestern Military Academy and attended Bradley University before joining the company in 1968.  Over the years, Robert focused on and developed expertise in voicing reeds of all types while guiding the growth of the firm.  Presently he serves as Vice President.  He enjoys travel, reading and playing golf.

Jack Bethards

Jack Bethards

President and Tonal Director of Schoenstein & Co. Organ Builders

Jack Bethards is President and Tonal Director of Schoenstein &  Co. Organ Builders of Benicia, CA (Est. 1877). He is past president of  the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America and serves on the  advisory boards of several organ preservation societies. In over 60 years  of pipe organ work and research, Mr. Bethards has been a frequent  lecturer and contributor of articles to professional journals. A major  thrust of his study, including work abroad, has been Romantic organ  building in France, Germany, England, and America.

Advisory Council

John Boody

John Boody

John Boody was born in 1946 and raised in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He has had a lifelong interest in choral singing. Majoring in music at the University of Maine, he graduated in 1968. Drafted into the U.S. Army, John spent 13 months in Vietnam as a chaplain's assistant. His first organ building experience was with Fritz Noack. After his Army service, he worked for 7 years with John Brombaugh. In 1977, George Taylor and John Boody started Taylor & Boody Organbuilders. They built their workshop in Staunton, Virginia in 1979 and have completed 80 organs in 40 years. John Boody is a member of the American Pipe Organ Builders Association, the International Society of Organ Builders, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton. He has a particular interest in wood technology and sawmilling and writes a regular column for the ISO Journal called "Ask the Wood Guy." John is now retired from active organ building.

Bill Czelusniak

Bill Czelusniak

Bill Czelusniak is President of Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc., Northampton, Massachusetts, the company founded in November 1971 with the late business partner, Francis E. Dugal, for pipe organ tuning and maintenance services. Incorporated in January 1978, the company grew into full organbuilding activity and has been recognized for high-quality tonal, restoration, and preservation work.

Bill is an active member of the Organ Historical Society, the American Guild of Organists, the American Institute of Organbuilders, the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, and of the American Theatre Organ Society.  Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc. is a member of the International Society of Organbuilders.

Mike Foley

Mike Foley

At age 15, Mike Foley saw his first pipe organ at a music teacher’s home. His interest exploded when he was able to purchase and remove a local theatre organ. In 1968 he and Bill Baker started Foley-Baker, Inc. (FBI) as a general keyboard instrument service business. Post-card mailers stirred up pipe organ service work and the firm quickly grew to include about 6 employees and many organs. By 1982, the piano service portion of the business had grown sufficient to justify separating the organ and piano divisions. Mike kept the organ portion as well as the firm’s name. A collection of top-end techs saw the organ business grow. Today, FBI has 20 full-time employees and services on a national basis. There have been many instruments reconditioned by Foley-Baker, some quite significant in size and historicity. The combined talents of the techs sees the firm now turning toward organ building.

Thomas Murray

Thomas Murray

Thomas Murray is University Organist and Emeritus Professor in the Practice of Organ Performance at Yale University, where he served on the faculties of the Yale School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music for 38 years.  Over the years he has taught many of the leading performers of a younger generation.  His recordings of Romantic repertoire, both original music for the instrument and transcriptions, are highly acclaimed.

The American Guild of Organists named him International Artist of the Year for 1986; as recipient of this award he followed such luminaries as Marie-Claire Alain, Jean Guillou and Dame Gillian Weir.   He is an honorary Fellow of the RCO (Royal College of Organists in England) and the RCCO (the Royal Canadian College of Organists).  In 2005 the Yale School of Music awarded him the Gustave Stoeckel Award for excellence in teaching and in 2021 he received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the University of the South.

C. Joseph Nichols

C. Joseph Nichols

C. Joseph Nichols is a native of southwest Louisiana. He attended college as an organ major at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1979 to enter the organ business with a local builder. In 1983 Joe became a founding partner and president of Nichols & Simpson, Inc. He has been a member of the American Institute of Organbuilders since 1984 and served that organization in many capacities including president and chair of the Ethics committee. Joe retired from organbuilding in March of 2021 after the completion of the firm’s 76th project and is now very content cooking, entertaining and traveling the world with his husband Philip Mayeux.

Richard Parsons

Richard Parsons

Richard Parsons is a fourth generation organbuilder and current President of Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua, NY. The Parsons firm recently celebrated their 100th year and in addition to manufacturing new, custom, tracker and electro-pneumatic action pipe organs, provides tuning and maintenance, restoration, preservation and consulting services. Ric is past President of the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA) and past Vice-President of the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO). Ric is active on many boards in his church, is the father of three sons and has five grandchildren.

Scott Peterson

Scott Peterson

As a young boy, Scott Peterson was exposed to pipe organs through frequent visits with his Dad to the Peterson shop, working as a tuning assistant, and helping relocate an organ into his family's church at age 11. He worked summers at Peterson Electro-Musical Products while in high school and college and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University. Upon joining the family company full time he would serve as a design engineer, production manager, VP, and later President. In addition to general management, responsibilities have included overseeing development of the ICS-4000 pipe organ control system and a significant expansion of the Peterson Strobe Tuners product line. Scott enjoys traveling with his family, power boating and restoring German automobiles.

Larry Smith

Larry Smith

Upon his retirement from the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Larry Smith was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus of Organ. He had served as chair of the organ department for most of his career at IU. 

 

Dr. Smith began his study of the organ in Guttenberg, Iowa, with John G. Lammers. Dr. Smith was graduated from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, (BM, 1965) studying with Russell Saunders. He continued formal educational degrees at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (MM, 1967) as a student of Arthur Poister, and was graduated from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, studying with David Craighead; he also earned that school’s prized Performer’s Certificate in Organ.

GROUP ENDORSEMENT

All over America, organists and organ builders are deeply concerned about the shortage of qualified pipe organ technicians. Many of the best builders and technicians are retiring, while young people with technical talent seem to be moving away from time-honored trades and “old fashioned” things like pipe organs. On the other hand, we have also observed that many young people who are fascinated by the pipe organ are frustrated with their office-based jobs and are looking for a profession with more interest, variety, and independence.

With all of this in mind, we are proud to join together in support of this educational venture with the firm belief that it will be a significant benefit to the entire organ industry and to the church music world.  

For those whose interest is piqued by developing and maintaining centuries-old craft skills, we think the time is right for a professional school to train people for careers in pipe organ technology. Firms nationwide - large and small - are looking for talented, qualified people to hire. There are also countless opportunities to start small businesses tuning and maintaining pipe organs.

The school is led by Dr. John Schwandt, who is uniquely qualified as both a performer and a technician. The AOA program is an interdisciplinary environment, combining the best hands-on elements of trade school with collegiate-level course work covering the history of the organ, organ design, and the physics and math related to the organ.

In balance with the technical aspects of organ building, students can also study organ performance, improvisation, and church music with Professor Schwandt. We believe that the skills necessary to play the organ are mutually beneficial with organ building and maintenance.

The location in Northeast Ohio is ideal in many ways: The cost of living is relatively low, yet there is a major airport and a widely admired musical community nearby. The school also has the facilities and personnel from three major and internationally experienced pipe organ companies to support the training and course work of the AOA. A.R. Schopp’s Sons is a leading supplier of pipework and organ components. Schantz Organ Company is a large, long-established, departmentalized organ builder. Kegg Pipe Organ Builders is known for innovation and creativity; its employees are primarily generalists collaborating on projects together. Every major component of a pipe organ - including blowers - is made within a 30-mile radius. The two builders also have large service departments providing opportunities for observation and personal on-site experience of real maintenance problem-solving and tuning visits.  The AOA is also fortunate to have the partnership of Schoenstein & Co., supporting the educational mission beyond Ohio.    

While the world continues to develop and change, we believe that the AOA will play an important role in building, restoring, and maintaining pipe organs. We are eager to provide opportunities for people who want a rewarding career devoted to the pipe organ and music.