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Workshop treats instrument and musician

Jace Jordan plays the organ as his teacher Carol Donahue stands by. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

It takes the whole body and mind to play an organ. Posture can affect whether an organist physically will be able to play. Esteemed organist Jesse Eschbach developed focal dystonia in his right hand and his career was sidetracked for 10 years.

This week anyone who is interested in the organ is invited to a workshop to learn more about the mental and physical side to making beautiful music as well as "what's under the hood" of an organ. Knowing the mechanics of the organ can help players with emergency tuning and cyphers (continuous sounding of a pipe) and dead notes.

The Arrowhead Chapter of the American Guild of Organists will present a summer organ workshop on Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30. Workshops with featured speakers take place in the morning sessions and private lessons with Eschbach are available in the afternoons.

Workshop presenters include Eschbach and Carol Donahue as well as world renowned organ builders Dan Jaeckel and David Rollin.

Now at the University of North Texas, Eschbach taught at the University of Minnesota in the 1980s and also studied organ on a scholarship in France. He will present on organ performance health and techniques.

"There is a lot of physical aspects to playing and it's important to develop good practice techniques so that you can make beautiful music," said Donahue, a member of the Arrowhead Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. "Sometimes our nerves take over and we tense up." She took lessons from Eschbach in the 1980s.

High School student Jace Jordan is signed up for the organ workshops. He has played the organ since seventh grade. A senior at Duluth East High School this fall, He takes lessons from Donahue. He said he is looking forward to learning new techniques and understanding the tuning.

On Wednesday workshops take place in Duluth at Dan Jaeckel's Organ Shop, 1600 London Rd. On Thursday workshops take place at First United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Pkwy.

Cost is $25 for two days, $15 for one day. Organ Guild students are free. Preregister by contacting Karen Sande at or (218) 724-0576.

Playing the organ includes the whole body. Jace Jordan puts on organ shoes so that he may pedal properly. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at