Category Archives: Dean’s Message

Monthly dean’s message, shows up on front page under calendar

Subdean’s Message July 2020

Dear chapter members,

We are in what my Episcopal rector calls “the new liturgical season of Covid-tide”. It’s a season of waiting—far longer than the four weeks of Advent! I hope that you are able to find some patience and growth during this time, and please know that the guild is still working behind the scenes to serve you. A few things to note this month:

Board Meeting Monday, July 13th, 7:00 PM

The Tacoma chapter board will be meeting (online) to discuss programming for next year and the postponed chapter election. Please contact me at if

  • you would like to attend (I’ll send the Zoom link)
  • you have programming ideas or needs
  • you have nominations for chapter leadership

Your input and suggestions are very welcome!

Online resources from AGO

The AGO national website has a lot of educational resources. One page you might not make it to is Chapter Leader Toolkits. There have been a number of meetings/presentations about current topics—online streaming in particular—and this page includes recordings of those meetings and supplementary materials.

Upcoming AGO Conventions

The 2020 National Convention in Atlanta, which was to have been next week, has been cancelled. For those who dream of travel, gatherings, and concerts: here are long-term dates, which don’t actually involve much travel!

  • 2021 West Region Convention: Portland, OR July 5-8
  • 2022 National Convention: Seattle, WA July 3-7

Subdean’s Message June 2020

Dear chapter members,

Greetings from your board during these challenging times! Tacoma chapter programs and activities are currently on hiatus, but if you have ideas of things you’d like to see from your chapter–either right now, or for next year–please feel free to contact me.

For those who are able to take this time as a kind of sabbatical/study leave, I commend to you David Dahl’s excellent article on studying Bach cantatas. I’m adding to the study theme with a list of some online resources for continuing education & artistic enjoyment-

Organ Resources

The AGO national website has an education page, which includes classes on many topics, for many levels.

AGO has also entered into a reciprocal agreement with the Royal College of Organists, so we should soon be able to access the RCO educational materials. Pipedreams, the weekly radio broadcast of organ music from American Public Media, has recently-released shows on its website.

Streamed Performances

Seattle’s Pacific Music Works Underground (early music organization) is live streaming on Facebook. Another early music ensemble, Voices of Music, is posting a weekly performance video . For opera fans, Seattle Opera has an online recital series on their website, plus Saturday morning broadcasts on KING FM. Additionally, Metropolitan Opera has a nightly streamed show, and The Royal Opera House is posting videos regularly (opera & ballet).

Resources for Composers

Lastly, as a composer, I’d like to mention a couple of sources for viewing performances of brand-new music: American Composers Forum has all manner of streamed events listed on their calendar, and the British Columbia branch of the Canadian Music Centre has a video performance series of new works for solo performers, “Unaccompanied”.

Handwashingly yours,
Sheila Bristow
Sub Dean

Subdean’s Message May 2020

Dear chapter members,

I would normally be writing a note about upcoming chapter meetings and organ performances. This is not a normal time! However, I would like to bring your attention to Saint Mark’s Cathedral’s livestream of the annual All-Bach On the Flentrop. Michael Kleinschmidt will be performing and offering commentary from the console on Friday, May 8th, at 7:30 PM. More information is available at

This is a time of great personal and professional upheaval for all musicians. My primary church job, Organist & Choirmaster at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, has thankfully continued with streamed services. Only staff are allowed in the building, but morning prayer is led by the rector, myself, and two well-spaced cantors. (My pre-service warm up time now includes a LOT of wiping of doorknobs and light switches before I get to the bench!) I’m trying to use the enforced break from my other musical jobs as a kind of sabbatical, including spending more time on music composition. Last week I finished a trumpet and bassoon duet (an almost Hindemith-worthy combination!) for a couple in Orchestra Seattle. It will be premiered online, along with other new music written to celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary and annual auction.

I’ve asked other board members to contribute articles about how they are dealing with the quarantine, and there are some wonderful ideas forthcoming. Please see Cheryl Drewes’ article , the beginning of an ongoing series—as we continue in an ongoing situation.

Sheila Bristow
Sub Dean

Dean’s Message July 2018

Good morning, everyone. I am just now back from a fruitful trip to Europe. I have good news that is also bad news. I have just accepted a new position in the eastern United States and need to step down as dean. I was truly looking forward to this fantastic challenge, however, this is an opportunity I cannot turn down. I will miss all of the wonderful colleagues here and my teaching at the University, but I know my family will have a wonderful experience where we are going. I hope to be able to share more details with you in the coming days. All my best wishes for a fantastic guild season.

Dean’s Message June 2018

“Ask not what the organ culture can do for you…”

It is a tremendous privilege to write this first column as your new dean. I am honored to be elected and look forward to serving. We enjoyed hosting many of you in our home for the end of the year party and I look forward to working closely with the board and the entire membership for a rewarding and inspiring year in our chapter. I am certain you will all want to join me in thanking outgoing dean Naomi Shiga for her great work.

I think we all know that the Puget Sound area is known nationally, throughout the world, really, as a place with a particularly rich organ culture. While I was in graduate school and working in the Midwest, I certainly missed this aspect of living here. There are several factors that contribute to this glorious situation. OK, we have great organs! We may have one of the most distinguished collections of organs of any region in the United States. Two of the finest organ builders on the planet live and work right here in Pierce County. Their organs are beautiful to hear and see, and they inspire organists to practice more, learn more about performance practice, and refine their skills. These organs are fantastic teachers in university settings and inspire numerous congregations to experience a glimpse of heaven every week.

Yes, the organs are great. But how did these organs arrive on the scene? People. We can look back at every important organ in our area and point to the person or persons who made those organs a reality. At the University of Puget Sound, that person was my teacher, Ed Hansen. At Pacific Lutheran University, that person was David Dahl. The beautiful organ that now lives at St. Andrew’s was first the result of the work of the Tietjens, and now Naomi Shiga. We have and have had visionary people in our midst who have achieved amazing things.

So, what’s next? “Ask not what the organ culture can do for you; ask what you can do for the organ culture.” It is our turn to be those visionary people. I believe the organ is at a crossroads. Sure, there are churches who are hopelessly mired in their limited experience and are not much interested in the organ or musical excellence and true beauty. Yes, organ departments in universities struggle to keep students coming through the doors. However, the organ still clearly speaks to young musicians in the intangible way it speaks to all of us. Not a single one of my organ students at UPS is churched! They have not come to the organ the same way you and I did; they stumbled into a situation where they saw and heard something beautiful and wanted to be a part of it.

In future columns, I will explore ways we can promote and develop our organ culture. I would welcome your ideas and feedback. Even more than that, your chapter and the organ culture will need your presence and engagement. Let us be the ones who set a wonderful vision for our instrument and its music. Let us also be the ones who make that vision a reality.