Category Archives: Dean’s Message

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

Dean’s Message June 2021

Dear chapter members,

As I look out my window at sunshine on this Memorial Day Weekend, it’s a great reminder that summer is coming. For organists, it is (hopefully) a season of renewal, when one can take time for some professional development work—and just take some time off.

Regarding professional development, congratulations to Erica Minneman for passing her Service Playing Exam with flying colors! It takes a lot of discipline to gear up for the exams, but she said the preparation was fruitful.

Two summer educational opportunities worth mentioning:

Oberlin College’s Organ Academy

Sweelinck Studies: June 14-19, 2021 and Summer Institute: June 20-25, 2021. More information is attached at the end of this article.

AGO’s Organfest 2021

As this summer’s regional conventions are cancelled, the guild is once again presenting a summer festival of concerts, June 27-July 2. There are also workshops and discussions.

And, at this close of the program year, I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to the board for their service in this year+ of adaptation! In particular, Cheryl Drewes has been tenacious and creative in coordinating programming, and Tom Clark keeps the trains running on time. Onwards!


Dean’s Message May 2021

Dear chapter members,

During the continuing pandemic journey, I’ve been keeping track of how technology has helped and hindered my connection with colleagues and professional development. Business meetings on Zoom? Love the commute time saved, but miss the socializing. A bevy of educational webinars available? Wonderful when they have a topic, but I’ve banned from my schedule anything that looks to be an hour of a speaker talking about…themselves.

I’ve always had a large measure of ambivalence toward social media in general, and their parent companies in particular. However, this year has made me really appreciate the professional associations on Facebook. Along with several chapter members, I’m in the Facebook Organists’ Association, and enjoy a fascinating variety of topics from around the world. I also get a full-throated blast of of professional concerns and thorny musical concerns from The Collaborative Pianists’ Community. Most recently, I’ve joined the Herbert Howells appreciation society and the Choral Evensong Appreciation Society. I look forward to the day when my newsfeed has more arguments over evening canticles than over politics!

Our own chapter has done a wonderful job of creating educational programming this year, and I am deeply grateful everyone who has volunteered their time. And I hope to see you all (with the aid of technology) at our final chapter meeting on May 10th!

Dean’s Message April 2021

Like many of you, I’ve worked hard to manage/pivot/salvage my life during pandemic times. I added a new (third!) church job to replace lost freelance work; I now have composition lessons via Zoom; and I’ve revamped my household’s organization, from dinner planning to Netflix viewing (NOT every night!). Despite these efforts and intentions, this spring has been difficult. There have been a lot of one-year reminders, including the date of my last live concert and a second Easter without parishioners.

I know I’m not alone in this very real fatigue. I don’t have the answer, but am trying to pay attention to signs of hope and renewal. These range from smelling spring flowers to intentionally enjoying opera rehearsals at PLU. Die Fledermaus outdoors is a new, weather-filled experience—yet joyous!

I was also heartened to hear that a parishioner was moved to tears by the music for Palm Sunday. While it’s a compliment to the music program, it is also a testament to this person’s commitment to stay connected to their faith despite distance and the challenges of technology. I am now trying to keep in mind that “great cloud of witnesses”—not the faithful departed, but those online. I suspect more on this topic will come up at our April 19th meeting, in which Kyle Haugen will present “The Cantor’s Work in Pandemic Times”. Hope to see you there!

Dean’s Message March 2021

Dear chapter members,

February’s meeting was a lovely presentation followed by a lively discussion. I hope March 15th will be the same! Thanks in advance to Cheryl Drewes for offering to edit a video member’s recital, and to the performers for sharing some Bach. We’ll be hearing the organs of Agnus Dei Lutheran, Gig Harbor; Christ Episcopal, Tacoma; St. Andrews Episcopal, Tacoma; St. Andrews Episcopal, Seattle; Spanaway Lutheran; University of Puget Sound; and Pacific Lutheran University. Also, last and REALLY least, the piano in my home. I felt like reconnecting with music I enjoyed in my youth, on the instrument of my youth.

As we continue figuring out how to do as many things online as possible—in the AGO and every other facet of life—there’s always the nostalgic hope that soon we’ll be back to normal. However, I think many distanced practices will continue past what my rector calls “The Great Return”. When the parish I serve reopens, services will still be streamed; being able to connect at a distance is worth all the technical challenges.

While I rejoice in expanding the reach of the parish’s music program, it does mean a very sticky part of my job will continue: dealing with music copyright issues. I will be writing about this in next month’s newsletter. If you have questions you’d like me to attempt to address, or resources to share with the chapter, please be in touch!

Sheila Bristow
Church Musician, Accompanist, Composer

Dean’s Message February 2021

Dear chapter members,

One of the interesting results of the pandemic has been so many activities pivoting to online. While my patience with screen time is short—and Zoom fatigue is real!—I am grateful for the educational and cultural opportunities this transition affords. In the last week alone, I’ve “attended” a composer chat with John Corigliano (courtesy of the American Composers Orchestra), a Taiko drum ensemble performance (thank you, Meany Center for the Performing Arts), and an organ recital from Thomsen Chapel (Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral). The latter was a lovely program by John Stuntebeck, and if you’d like to view his virtual organ organ crawl of this Fritts organ, start the embedded video below.

AGO is, of course, working hard at this transition. The latest webinar from national is “Know Your Value”, a guide to helping employees negotiate with religious institutions. The presentation will introduce a new handbook, put together in response to the the salary guide prohibition. That webinar is Monday, February 1st, 5:00 PM EST. For more information, and to register, click here.

If you’d like to watch it later on, past webinars and supporting documents are available on the national website at

And, at the chapter level, we’re continuing the format of pre-recorded presentations, followed by live Q & A. On Monday, February 15th. Paul Tegels will present “Sweelinck and the Golden Age in the Netherlands”. It’s a fascinating period of history, and it produced a lot of beautiful music. Hope to see you there!