If You Ever Play the BYU Marriott Center Organ

Several years ago I asked my organ teacher, Doug Bush, what I would need to do to be able to play the organ at the Marriott Center. “Be on the list,” was his quick reply.

“Okay. Put me on the list,” I boldly requested.

He patiently explained that it was not as easy as it looked and I needed to have more experience; that there were a lot of things I needed to know and that generally he required a Junior level standing in the organ program or successful completion of  the AGO Service Playing Exam. And besides that, there really wouldn’t be much opportunity for me to play there because students or faculty were asked to play at most of the events held in the Marriott Center. The only exception might be the BYU Women’s Conference held every spring.

Determined to be an organist at Women’s Conference some day, I spent the next two years preparing for the AGO exam. As promised, after passing the AGO Service Playing Exam, my name was added to the Organists Approved to Play Marriott Center list.

And then I waited. Patiently. Sort of. For the first couple years, anyway.

I finally gave up this year and resigned myself to never playing at Women’s Conference. Ever. And of course, that’s when I was asked to play. (Why didn’t I give up sooner?)


It was a great experience. And just in case you ever get asked to play the organ at the Marriott Center, here’s my List of Things That Are Really Nice to Know Before You Play the Marriott Center Organ:

  • There is not a “practice organ” in a private, safe, secluded room. There is only one organ in the Marriott Center and it’s the real deal, out in the middle of a big, huge, lonely arena.
  • The “on” switch is above the manuals on the left side.
  • To choose a memory level, open the drawer below the draw knobs on the left side of the manuals. If you can’t find the hidden drawer, just get off the bench quickly, in desperation to phone a more experienced organist to tell you where the stupid thing is and your knee will find the drawer very quickly. (I’ve got the bruise to prove it!)
  • Practice headphones are kept at the organ, on the floor, to the right of the pedalboard. It’s a good idea to use them, but it’s also very helpful to not use them at least once before you’re playing in front of a live audience so you get a feel for the sound coming through humungo speakers throughout the arena and not just the little wimpy tink-tink through the headphones. (Besides, it feels so good to sit in an empty arena and just play LOUD!)
  • During an event the HVAC system moves a lot of air. Taping your sheet music down is a must. But even books can be affected by the breeze. Use paper clips or pencils, or your metronome, or anything to keep your hymnal open to the right page throughout the whole hymn.
  • The lights on the organist are bright. The lights on the music are not. To get a feel for how it’s going to be, have an organ practice session in a dimly lit room while someone shines a flashlight at your face.
  • Counting out loud is not just for kids at piano lessons. The delayed-sound-travel phenomenon can get very distracting. Watch the conductor, count aloud, sing the hymn—do what you need to do to keep yourself focused on where you are, not where the congregation is.
  • Enjoy the moment. As Albert Schweitzer said:

If you are called upon to play a church service, it is a greater honor than if you were to play a concert on the finest organ in the world…Thank God each time when you are privileged to sit before the organ console and assist in the worship of the Almighty.




A Great Organ Workshop . . . And It’s Free!

An annual event, the Utah Valley American Guild of Organists Super Saturday is a great opportunity for organists of every level. Check out the amazing list of workshop classes below. And did I mention it’s FREE!?! AGO 2014 Super Saturday

To be added to the UVAGO Super Saturday email list, send your request to clark.mark@comcast.com. More questions? Just send a reply to this post. I’d be glad to help.

A New Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiates 3:1

Since I began studying the organ, regular practice has been the norm. Some days it took effort to get myself to the church organ, but I was so enamored with the instrument that my motivation seldom waned. With increased involvement in my local AGO chapter, I got to be quite the organ geek, spending way too much time with my ‘friends’ Rodgers, Wicks, Bigelow and Allen.

During this organ-intense period of my life a fellow ward organist mentioned as she slid on the bench one Sunday morning, “I haven’t had time to practice at all this week. I haven’t even thought about the organ.”

What?!? How can you not have for the organ? What else is there that could possibly be more important?

Well, I think I’ve come up with a few things recently. Not only have I significantly decreased my organ playing time the past couple months, but if this organ blog were a garden, all the fruit, flowers, and pretty things would have shriveled and died from neglect and be overrun by nasty weeds by now. But that’s okay. It’s just a blog. (No offense, WordPress people. It may be your life, but it’s not mine.)

My organistic ventures may be limping along at the moment, but my family is blooming beautifully. A happy, handsome son returning home from his two year missionary service and a daughter giving birth to a beautiful little angel (my first grandchild!) have put me in the ranks of “I haven’t had time to practice at all this week.”

It’s great. I’m loving it!!

I’ll get back to the organ. But for now…

This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

A note to Linda, Mark, Douglas, Mike and Jacqueline—I have received, read, and enjoyed your SALSA responses. Thank you so much! And I will be sharing them soon. Promise!

Obituary for Douglas Earl Bush

Douglas Earl Bush was born March 1, 1947 to Joe and Phyllis Bush and died in his home on October 4, 2013 after battling cancer. Dad frequently talked about his upbringing in rural Montana — working on the farm with his grandparents, gardening, cooking, and spending time with his family.

From a young age, he had a deep love and interest in history and a strong inclination toward music and organs specifically. These two loves became the defining interests of his life. His passion for good music led him to become a world-renowned organist, a “Bach-aholic”, and beloved teacher, with a particular gift to love, motivate and inspire others to want to become better people. He was passionate about family history and temple work as though it were his second profession, spending all of his time invested in family – both here on earth, and on the other side of the veil. His faith was the guiding force in his life, along with a persistent quest for that which would bring depth, beauty and meaning to all around him. Dad had magic hands; everything he touched always bloomed. His was a life characterized by selfless service, compassion, gentleness, and excellence. He created beauty wherever he went, and we feel profoundly blessed by such a lovely father, example and friend.

He is survived by five daughters: Sarah Bush, Rebecca Buchert (Martin), Susan Bush (Joshua Trammell), Elizabeth Bush Campbell (Scott), and Christa Groesbeck (Garrett); 12 grandchildren who were the light of his life; his father, Josiah Douglas Bush (Mary Bush); and two siblings, Rick Bush (Jackie) and Dianne Reeder.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at the Provo Central Stake Center, 450 North 1220 West, Provo, Utah. Friends may call at the Berg Mortuary of Provo, 185 East Center Street, Monday from 6-8:00 p.m. and at the church Tuesday from 10-10:45 a.m. prior to services. Interment, Provo City Cemetery.