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Building a PASSION for PIPE ORGANS through PIPELINES
In 1995, Grand Rapids AGO member, Laura Bartleson, a teacher at Seymour Christian School, submitted a request for a grant from the Arts Council of Grand Rapids for a program she designed for her school. The program was called PIPELINES. That year, the funds granted were used to study pipe organs school wide, using science, math, history, etc. It was an exciting program. At one point the entire student body, about 300 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, was bused around town on a big "organ crawl."
Another member of our guild, Shirley Boomsma, heard about it and telephoned Laura with some ideas she had. Laura then shared with her the materials she had used and lesson plans the other teachers had used. Shirley then reworked the program into a project for the guild, using the same title and many of Laura's ideas, and made it into the demonstration concert for fourth graders we do today.
Funding for the program originally came from the chapter treasury and contributions from chapter members. Gifts to help fund the program have also been received from local arts program supporters Charles and Stella Royce and Edith Blodgett, plus a one-time grant from the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids. More recently aid has come from the Anne Heyboer Vander Heide Fund of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Anne Vander Heide was an organist who gave 62 years of service to Burton Heights Christian Reformed Church before stepping down at the age of 81. She was one of the early members of our AGO chapter. Recently Anne's son, Stuart, established the fund to honor his mother's lifelong love for music and people. Income from the fund will provide ongoing support to this program of our AGO Chapter and to the St. Cecilia Music Society, two organizations that greatly enriched Anne Vander Heide's life, and continue to enhance the lives of others.
Each October or November fourth-graders from a different quadrant of our greater Grand Rapids area are invited to this entertaining and informative presentation. The program features many fine area organists performing on the church's five-manual, 80-rank, organ.
Daniel Burton's Rex: The King of Instruments, a composition with narration, has always been a big hit with the kids. Organ builder, James Lauck, from the Kalamazoo area, demonstrates the inner workings of the organ -- the wind supply, bellows, reservoir, wind chest with pipes setting on it, and the keyboard -- using a model he built.
A 3-rank "human organ," three rows of four children, each person in the row given a pipe of a specific pitch, and each row having pipes of a certain rank, are each individually coached in
producing a good sound on their pipe, and then finally, with a little direction from Mr. Lauck, they play Mary Had a Little Lamb for the breathlessly waiting audience. It always brings down the house!
Each year a young piano student is chosen to play a prepared number on the organ. Hopefully, experiences like these will spark an interest in further pursuit of studying the organ - not only in the mind of the student who played, but also in the minds of other young students who heard that "it is possible."
Live video cameras are focused on the performers, and the demonstrations, and the images are displayed on a large rear-projection screen in the front of the church ensuring everyone has a good view.
Teachers are provided with a packet of classroom ideas in advance, along with a copy of The Young Person's Guide to the Pipe organ. PIPELINES has earned a reputation in area schools and is in high demand by music teachers, some of whom have made the organ a regular part of their curriculum as a result of attending our program. The Grand Rapids AGO Chapter is proud of the unique and successful educational program we offer to our local schools.