November 2017
Thoughts on History

NSAGO Dean Andrea Handley
NSAGO Dean Andrea Handley

Andrea Handley

After the wonderful opening program of our 60th anniversary season in September, I went home thinking about the role of ‘history’ in our lives. As I looked around the room that day, I saw people who have just recently become part of my life. But I also saw those who have been part of my life for over 40 years. And it’s nice to know people who have been a part of your life for that long. It’s grounding and represents stability in a world that is anything but stable.

Friends appear and disappear, family members move away, church jobs and acquaintances from those churches come and go. But the friends and colleagues that you make through AGO become lifelong connections. In addition to coming together to enjoy our great instrument with each other, or share ideas and learn new things, AGO programs are a great time to re-establish connections with lifelong friends and colleagues. When you think about it, that’s a rare and precious thing in most of our lives.

Andrea Handley, Dean


November 2017
Open Sea Reflections

Judy Kohl

I recently celebrated a birthday – not one of those that slips by and you hope no one notices. With this one, I am standing on the cusp of a new decade and for some reason, those decade birthdays have been very significant in my life. I’ve thought back to how my life literally seemed to make a paradigm shift with each new decade.

The day I turned fifty, I woke up empowered in a way I had never sensed before. My life felt rich and complete – any future experiences were a bonus. I chose to leave my full time church position, which seemed strange as I had been an organist since age 16.  Yet, it was a new beginning and I sensed fresh energy and creativity as I now had the time  to compose music of my own.
Now that I just turned sixty, I wonder what  this next decade will look like. Those high values of empowerment and strength don’t seem to be as important as before.  I sense something more gentle and gracious – and yes, much more comfortable. This is renewing for my spirit. There is an ease even as I approach this busy holiday season as who I am is not validated by what I do or even how well I do it. I will use the gifts I’ve been given by God and continue to welcome any opportunity to use them.
If it sounds as if I plan to simply sail into the sunset, then I’ve painted the wrong picture. A friend of mine challenged me to embrace life not as many people do after a certain number of birthdays; trying to maneuver their boat into the harbor safely with as few dings as possible. Rather, I plan on exploring the open seas, indefinitely.
This decade will most likely look different. Meanwhile, I have plans to become a better musician, learn as much about this wonderful life as possible, give back to  those less fortunate in my community and around the world, and deepen those friendships I hold so dear. I’m glad that becoming more involved with North Shore AGO will make that more likely with each one of you.
Judy Gration Kohl, Board member

October 2017
A Musical Journey

John Hopkins

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!

John Hopkins