It seems a lifetime ago that I was a grade school kid at St. Francis Xavier in Wilmette. At that time, the school offered free music lessons…students would leave class and walk across the parking lot to the convent. My piano teacher, Sister Marian Celeste, looked at me one day and said, “I think your legs are long enough now. I shall teach you to play the organ”. And that’s how it all began. The year was 1958.
Several years later as a junior at Loyola Academy High School, the organist at St. Francis died unexpectedly, and I became the weekday organist, playing three morning services before heading out to school to start the day at 9:30. It was the good old days of the Latin mass, so not only did I play the organ, I also had to sing the responses back to the priest in Latin.
After high school, I would often sub at Faith Hope & Charity Church in Winnetka. Most of my music, however, was playing piano at a club on Rush Street called the Red Garter. 3 banjos, a tuba, and me on piano. I learned to love Dixieland music and made a good living playing weekends for parties and gatherings.
Twenty years ago, while subbing at the Congregational UCC church in Arlington Heights, I was asked to take the open position of permanent organist. It was then I discovered the AGO, which provided a wonderful resource of contacts and a resource for music. The professionalism of AGO was much appreciated, and I especially valued the contacts with other musicians in the field.
I left the UCC church after 7 years to return to subbing. Many Saturday evening masses were played at St. Michaels in Old Town, and St. Joseph in Wilmette. Meantime I took a permanent spot at Community Presbyterian Church in Mt. Prospect, a position I held until this year when I became full time music director at St. Joseph Church. Current responsibilities include both an adult and a children’s choir, 5 weekend services, and dozens of wedding and funerals.
It’s been a long and varied journey, but one filled with beautiful music. Who could ask for a better life!