The Voice: Winter 2003

The Voice

Dordt College music professors teach young future organists

Organists are in short supply these days. Joan Ringerwole, professor of music at Dordt College and an accomplished organist herself, hopes it won’t stay that way for long. With the help of a new grant provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc., she and other organists are trying to renew interest in the “king of instruments.”

The Worship Renewal Grant from the Calvin Institute of Worship and Music provides seventeen high school students with the money to take organ lessons. James Koldenhoven, emeritus professor and a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, wrote the grant, and Ringerwole, along with Dordt College alums and First Church organists, Emily Sybesma and Dolores Rylaarsdam, auditioned applicants for the scholarship which awarded students $250 for lessons and books. Ringerwole and Mary Lou Wielenga, an adjunct professor of piano and organ at Dordt, teach many of the students.

“Our church recently bought a new Casavant organ,” says Ringerwole. “It’s sparked a lot of interest in our congregation.”

The grant is necessary, she says, due to the severe shortage of organists. “This is an international problem,” she says. “Most schools have very few students studying organ, and some have discontinued their programs altogether.”

Interest remains high at Dordt College, though. “We have never had less than eighteen organ students,” says Ringerwole, speculating that the organ class at Dordt Discovery Days, among other things, may contribute to the sustained interest.

Wielenga is encouraged by students’ interest. Eight of ten students she teaches have finished their scholarship lessons; seven plan to continue taking lessons.