SALSA: Mike Nield

Here’s a big welcome for our newest addition to SALSA (Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists): Mike Nield
 from the Shelley Idaho South Stake, Jameston Ward.

Mike has some great things to share with us about his experience as a self-described late-blooming organist who has worked his way from piano-player-at-the-organ up to almost-mediocre-organist! (Can anyone else relate to that? Yes!!!)

Check out his unique story, then go to Questionnaire and tell us yours!

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Mike Nield—Idaho

What was the first musical calling you received? How was that experience? My first music calling was as Primary Chorister. That was probably the funnest calling I have ever had. The spirit is so strong in Primary. Since then I have been Assistant Organist, Ward Music Chairman, Ward Music Director, Choir Director, Stake Choir Director, Stake Music Specialist over Priesthood Meetings, and now Stake Music Chairman.

Do you play any other instruments? If so, which instrument do you prefer? I play piano, trumpet, french horn, guitar, and organ. Organ is my favorite. I can also play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a 3/4 violin nearly as well as my 9-year-old daughter, who has just started lessons.

What is your favorite hymn? How can I pick just one? Be Still My Soul
, Saints, Behold How Great Jehovah
, Come Sing to the Lord.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Organ practice pretty takes care of my spare time. I love, and I mean really love, going to the chapel late at night and playing on the organ.

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? Overcoming stage fright. I can play perfectly Saturday night but fall apart Sunday.

What is one thing you have learned that has helped you in your calling? One of the biggest lessons I learned was the effect proper registration has on congregational singing. I would go in late at night Saturday to an empty chapel and work up a really nice registration for a hymn, one that sounded really nice to my ears. But then Sunday when I would play the hymn in the chapel full of singing people the registration sounded so weak, and nobody sang. Turns out I was using a registration too weak to support the congregation.

Tell us about how you got started playing the organ. I’m a late bloomer. I took piano briefly as a youth until I got to be tougher than my Mom, then quit. Music didn’t do much for me back then. Sometime in my early 20’s some life-changing things happened to me musically. I got placed (by revelation, I’m convinced, as I had never even played in an orchestra before in my life) as 2nd Trumpet in the Symphony Orchestra at BYU. I sang (for the first time) in a choir at the MTC-Provo at Christmas. I had some very spiritual experiences on my mission to Tokyo that involved music.

Then I came home and went to Veterinary School, and life got really busy. Ten years passed. I got married, graduated, became a Veterinarian, a small business owner, and then divorced. I was in Scouting at this point, and was very involved with that and not so much with music. It was at this point that I had another life-changer. I went to a Regional Music Workshop for no apparent reason. I don’t know why I decided to go. I don’t remember much about it except for one class where they told us that we could write our own music. That struck a chord, so I went home, sat down at the piano, and said to myself “now what?” I had never written anything before, and had no clue how to do it. But then I heard a choir piece playing like an mp3 in my mind, complete with piano and organ accompaniment.

It took only a few hours to write down the basics of the music. It took only 30 minutes to write the words. That was 1998. We sang the piece in ward choir for Christmas that year, and have every year since. The arrangement changes a bit each year as I get more proficient in my arranging skills, and it is only recently that I have learned enough about organ registration and repertoire to really get the organ part to sound like I heard it that day 14 years ago.

After that, I began arranging hymns. I learned to love conducting. It was six years ago when I was serving as Executive Secretary that our best ward organist moved away, leaving only one other Sister who could play, and she had several other callings. I remember listening to the Bishopric’s discussion about who on earth they were going to get to play the organ when I felt a prompting that I should learn.

I set a trap for our Ward Music Chairman. I picked a time when I knew that she would be in the chapel, and I just happened to be sitting at the organ playing my heart out when she walked in. She immediately walked over and offered to let me play on Fast Sundays.

I was really bad. I thought the organ was a big piano. It took me four years to learn that I didn’t know anything about playing the organ, and I’ve been learning line upon line ever since. Soon I’ll be up to mediocre, and I’m pretty excited about that!

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Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA Questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

Getting Acquainted

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to check out this blog. I’m very excited about the possibilities of our little ‘ward organist community’ and I’m glad you have taken time to check it out.

Second, I am very anxious to get to know other LDS organists throughout the world, but am getting the sense that people are just a little shy about jumping up and letting the world know who they are. I understand that feeling.

So today I am being bold (but hopefully not overbearing!) and sharing excerpts from my recent interview with the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Perhaps this will give you the little nudge that you need to share some of your thoughts, questions or comments on our Group Discussion page.

Florence Hawkinson

Will you tell us a little about yourself? I am a member of the Utah Valley Chapter AGO and the creator of Pedal Points—an online forum for LDS organists. I have lived in Utah for over 25 years, but still claim Pittsburgh as my hometown.

Are you currently an organist at a church/parish? I just stepped down from my position as organist at Orem Community Church and am now serving as organist in the Provo Peak 3rd ward, a local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon).

How do you pick worship music? I am given the topics of upcoming sermons and look for hymns that support the theme. I consider the meter, rhythm, length, key and general mood of the hymns and other music and try to create a reasonable balance and flow to the service. And to be perfectly honest, I am influenced by the reality of limited practice time—at times favoring one piece over another because of technical issues.

How long have you been playing organ? About six years. Starting organ lessons at age 45 I was a bit of a late bloomer, I suppose. :)

Do you play any other instruments? Yes. Piano (of course!) and guitar.

What do you do in your spare time? Spare time?!? Do you mean when I’m not playing the organ or at my full-time job as an architectural designer/drafter? In those rare moments of spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, biking and spending time with my husband.

What is your favorite vacation spot? San Francisco. I love fog. And we don’t get a lot of fog in the Utah desert! Also, my sister lives there and always makes sure I have a new organ to explore when I visit her.

What is your favorite Bach piece? Prelude and Fugue in G major (BWV 541). My first organ teacher introduced me to organ music by taking me to an all-Bach organ recital presented by Dr. Douglas Bush. It was a difficult time in my life as I was still grieving the death of my mother. Though all of the music I heard that evening did much to soothe my spirit, when Dr. Bush played the fugue, my heart felt alive and filled with joy for the first time in nearly two years. Every time I hear that piece I remember the healing that came to me that evening.

If you had to pick one composer in the world to meet (dead or alive), who would it be? Wow, there are so many wonderful composers…why do you ask such hard questions?

What are some of your favorite things about being a member of the AGO Utah Valley Chapter? The friendship and support of fellow chapter members. The opportunity to get together with other ‘organ geeks’ to learn and share our common interest. I especially appreciate the way the more experienced members have always treated me with respect and have encouraged me in my musical endeavors.

Now click here. It’s your turn to share!