August 2015
Story of a Newcomer

Philip McPeek
Philip McPeek

Philip McPeek

Although my first piano lessons were sometime in kindergarten, I’m a relative newcomer to the organ world — I’ve only been playing for about four years now. Between lessons and band rehearsals, music was an integral part of growing up. As a pastor’s kid, church was also a pretty constant fixture; one of my earliest memories is sitting through a church choir rehearsal in Portland, Oregon. In fourth grade my family moved to southern Louisiana, where I attended middle and high school. In high school I devoted myself quite seriously to learning percussion. In my junior year I won a national competition and was selected to play a concerto with the United States Air Force Band. I decided to pursue percussion performance in college, beginning at Northwestern in 2009. Unfortunately, midway through my second year at Northwestern, I broke my leg after tripping on a patch of ice on my way to class. I spent several months at home in recovery, undergoing two surgeries and spending a lot of time on my parents’ couch.

The broken leg was something of a blessing in disguise, as it gave me a chance to reconsider my college studies and to take my first organ lessons while home (after the leg had healed, of course). I had always been interested in the organ but never really had the time to devote to it. I was particularly drawn to creative players and distinctly remember one of the first times I heard someone improvising during a hymn accompaniment. I took lessons over the next two summers and was offered a Music Director position at University Lutheran Church in Evanston, beginning in the fall of 2012. That fall I also began studying with Margaret Kemper and joined the AGO, and I haven’t looked back. There’s no other instrument quite like the organ, and I love getting to channel my creative energies into it. I’ve been exposed to a number of wonderful organists and performing opportunities through both the Guild and at Northwestern. I refocused my college studies, majoring in music theory and religious studies, and I’ve spent the last couple of months serving as the Interim Summer Organist at Bethany Lutheran in Crystal Lake. Next month I’ll finish my undergraduate degrees and will return to Northwestern to begin an M.M. in Music Theory. I’m also looking forward to becoming more involved with the North Shore chapter next year while I serve on the board, and I hope to get to know more of my new-found colleagues as I continue to learn and grow as an organist.

Philip McPeek
Board Member

Posted in Past Testimonials.