Category Archives: Dean’s Message

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

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!

Dean’s Message January 2021

Dear chapter members,

As I write this on New Year’s Eve, I am reflecting that I haven’t seen so much weight given to the changing of the calendar year since we were all freaked out about Y2K. There is no magic wand that will instantaneously make the world a better place beginning January 1st, but there is certainly hope in the air with the development of new vaccines, and the continuing evolution of ways we can connect with each other during a pandemic.

I know this is a very hard time to be an organist. I’m personally grateful to still be employed as a church musician, but am challenged to be motivated when I’m not making music with other people. Some of you are even more literally distanced from your art, not having access to an instrument. I hope that the the new year will renew our resolve to keep the threads of connection alive: connection to music; connection to our friends and colleagues; and connection to our calling.

Despite this challenging time, our chapter has continued meeting, and fostering those connection. Many thanks to members who’ve designed online programs for us to share: Wyatt Smith, Tim Drewes, John Muehleisen, Nancy Ferree-Clark and Tom Clark. Looking ahead, we have presentations on the new Fritts organ at Agnus Dei Lutheran, and Sweelink and the Golden Age in the Netherlands.

Sub Dean Cheryl Drewes is doing a wonderful job of planning and coordinating all of this activity. If you have programming suggestions, or just want to be more connected, you are welcome to join us at our next board meeting on Monday, Jan 11th. Let’s stay in touch!

Dean’s Message December 2020

Dear chapter members,

As we’ve started the holiday season, I hope that you are finding ways to adapt your traditions to the reality of 2020 and celebrate anyway—as we shall do at our Zoom Christmas party!

You’ll be receiving this email on “Giving Tuesday”, when many worthy organizations are soliciting year-end donations. In the organ world, we have a local need for gifts in the coming year: an endowed professorship for organ studies at the University of Washington.

As most of you know, there are local schools at which to study organ, including our own Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound. However, the only school in the region to offer graduate studies has been the UW. Dr. Carole Terry was an amazing force behind the program for forty years; but every time a tenured professor retires, it is an opportunity for an institution to end that position, usually for budget reasons.

I studied with Carole for my masters degree. I adored her teaching; had access to wonderful instruments throughout Seattle; and was privileged to be part of a class which included stellar doctoral students from around the world. It is my fervent hope that this opportunity can be recreated for future generations of organists.

Right now, an endowment fund is being created in order to rebuild the program, and to make it permanent. The amount of funding needed is daunting, ranging from $1.5 million for a part-time artist-in-residence to teach undergrads, all the way up to $4 million for a national search level tenure track position. However, a foundational gift is on its way, and the Seattle AGO chapter has pledged $125,000 in matching funds as we move forward. This is not a Giving Tuesday plea, but a Giving 2021 heads up!

I hope you’ll consider being part of this opportunity, and more information will be forthcoming. Onwards!