Category Archives: Dean’s Message

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

Dean’s Message February 2024

Sometimes sage words bring a comforting perspective. Consider this recollection from my friend, an organist and retired piano teacher:

I once had a studio of bright, talented kids, enthusiastic adults, and a struggling few who failed to show any musical proficiency. I remember a girl of eleven years, gawky and large for her age, withdrawn and frequently apologetic, who was, frankly, bereft of any signs of musical aptitude. I couldn’t make headway with the poor girl and found myself hoping that she would become frustrated and quit. She never did. Week after week, we plodded through the same material, and I began to dread her lesson days.

Years later, I ran into her mother at a grocery store. After thanking me profusely, she told me that her daughter had come into her own, was headed to college on scholarship, and still enjoyed playing piano every day! It was the lessons, she told me, that helped her daughter grow in self-esteem, and feel some sense of accomplishment during that awkward period in her life. I was both shocked and humbled. Though a professional musician that young girl would never be, music lessons sustained her through a critical time, and allowed her to blossom. As they say, one never knows!”

Music educators and church musicians alike are sure to encounter the mystery of unknowing. What to make of the perennial, underachieving student, or the impassive though faithful choir member? How reassuring it is to realize that our presence matters, even when not apparent to us at the time. Thanks, my friend, for sharing!

Looking ahead, we are excited about our next chapter field trip to attend “Hallock at 100” at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, on February 24 and 25. A few of us will be at the Sunday afternoon performance, and I highly encourage you to attend whichever date works best for you. Peter Hallock was such a huge influence in the Seattle area and well beyond. His legacy literally sings on!

Also, remember that there is no chapter meeting in March, giving us all a break during the hectic season of Lent through Easter. Instead, look forward to events in April and beyond.



Dean’s Message January 2024

Well, we did it! Another hectic season, full of anticipation, leading up to Christmas. Heaven knows it was quite an immersion to prepare our choirs, soloists, and ensembles for a myriad of services and performances. It’s a wonder that there was any time left for family traditions. But year after year, perhaps for decades, we manage to get it all done, and what a blessing it always turns out to be, especially in the complicated times that we live in now. We provide and receive a deeper comfort and joy in a broken world. May the remaining Twelve Days be a time of rest, renewal, and contentment and among family and friends.

Looking ahead, we are excited about our next chapter event, a field trip to see “Safety Last” at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle, on Monday, January 22nd, at 7:00pm. As in the past, a public transportation option for those traveling from Tacoma will be planned, which will include an opportunity for a pre-movie meal together.

We hope to bring our membership a February event, and now that Christmas is over, we can refocus our attention to a couple of possibilities in the works. As well, it’s always good to check the TAGO calendar for newly published community events.

Finally, hang on to your hats as 2024 includes an early Easter, March 31st, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day! To make life less complicated, we will not have a chapter meeting in March. Instead, look forward to events in April and beyond.


Dean’s Message December 2023

Kudos! and a huge thanks to Bruce Shull for his presentation, “Meantone Marvels of Germany and the Netherlands.” After leading us through a demonstration of quarter-comma meantone tuning on the harpsichord, Bruce provided a captivating travelogue of the recent Fritts organ shop study tour, complete with slides and recordings. All the instruments were magnificent, some jaw-dropping. And the meantone intonation? The sweetly sonorous pure major thirds are pure bliss, and as one moves through more distant keys, harmonies start to rub, and melodic intervals stretch or contract. Go beyond, and the music sounds torqued, sometimes intensely so. What a rich palate for the composer!

Inspired to go down the meantone rabbit hole, I came across two recordings of Michelangelo Rossi’s highly chromatic Toccata Settima: first, the almost hair-raising quarter-comma tuning, and second, the genteel fifth-comma tuning. What an eye opener!

  • Alice Sheu on the historical organ at Oosthuizen, Netherlands
    on YouTube.
  • Nathan Laube on the C.B. Fisk at Abbey Chapel, Mount Holyoke College
    on YouTube.

Thank you! Cooper Sherry and the community of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows for your gracious hospitality. Thanks also to everyone who brought treats for the lovely reception.

Looking ahead, we invite you to our Tacoma AGO Holiday Party at the home of the Tietjens, Monday, December 11th, at 7:00pm. Join us for good cheer and music! Please bring a food item to share.

Also, mark your calendars for our chapter field trip “Safety Last” at Seattle Paramount Theatre, Monday, January 24th, at 7:00pm. We always look forward to Silent Movie Mondays, especially this one featuring Harold Lloyd’s iconic comedy. We hope you can join us!


Dean’s Message November 2023

Another Halloween night, and for once it didn’t rain. Little ghosts and goblins came by, and judging by their bulging sacks, it was treats all the way! First, I heard their busy footsteps, and then a knock on the door and more shuffling of feet. Skeletons, witches, a black cat, and even a princess with her adorable pea chanted “trick or treat!” These little spirits beamed in anticipation – like so many jack-o’lanterns lining the front porch – as I added to their growing delectable treasure. Bounty accepted, they ran off, reveling in the night.

I love the spooktacular as much as the kiddos, a natural for any organist, after all. At the same time, especially this year, I find myself mindful of Halloween’s harvest origins as a mark of transition. As I hurriedly carved pumpkins before heading out for the day, my thoughts drifted in anticipation of the busiest time of year for the church musician. It can be daunting no matter how well prepared we are, and yes, I do get frantic at times. Yet, what a blessing it is that our work, by intention, takes us through every season and the liturgical year within a faith community. In this way, we are always in the right place at the right time. May our musical offerings be bright with hope, and full of comfort.

Looking ahead, we are really excited about our November event, Meantone Marvels of Germany and the Netherlands, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Sunday, November 19th, at 2:30 pm. Bruce Shull will talk about the historic organs visited by members of the Fritts organ shop on their recent study tour of meantone instruments. You will hear examples from magnificent organs, view stunning photos, experience firsthand a meantone demonstration on the harpsichord, and learn more about the shop’s plans to build a new meantone organ. We hope you can join us for this fascinating travelogue!

Remember also to check our website events page, for some wonderful programs coming up in the next few months, including our Tacoma AGO Holiday Party at the home of the Tietjens, Monday, December 11th, at 7:00 pm. Thank you, Sandy and Dick, for your warm hospitality in your lovely home!



Dean’s Message October 2023

Perhaps at one of your piano or organ lessons, your teacher presented a composition and said, “I wrote this piece especially for you.” It may have been in your favorite style, or to perfect a certain technique, or a clever combination of both. Composers of all generations have been writing for their students: Bach, Beethoven, Kabalevsky, Bartok, and certainly more. One of my son’s piano teachers wrote a suite of pieces, each dedicated to a student, including Isaac. I know some of you have also written for your students and choirs. I can’t think of a more beautiful measure of support!

What got me thinking about all of this is our October chapter event, featuring the compositions of David Dahl in his collection, “Hymn Interpretations.” Several of us will each demonstrate one piece, as assigned by David, ever the consummate teacher. To Tim, he said, “I think this will be a good one for you.” David didn’t hint at why he assigned my piece, but once I saw the score, it was obvious, and made me smile. I expect the same for the others because David is always thinking about what would be most helpful or encouraging for the developing musician – and no matter what our age or experience, we are always developing musicians.

We encourage you to join us for Hymn Interpretations, at Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma, on Saturday, October 21, at 10:30am. David will share a bit about each of his compositions, all of them uniquely attractive, and written with specific intention in mind. In hearing these gems, you most certainly will take home insights and ideas for your own interpretations of hymns, all accessible approaches. You might even be inspired to compose an original piece. Thank you, David, for sharing your gifts with us, so that we can make them our own!

On a related note, I encourage you to read Sheila Bristow’s article, “Back to School, for a look at the numerous educational opportunities available to us as life-long learners. There are both in-person and online options covering performance and music ministry topics. Remember also to check our website event page, which is growing longer with great events over the coming months, including our chapter’s new AGO lunch, the first of which is at Cactus Restaurant, Tacoma, on October 13, at noon.