Eighty Years of Organ Study at the
University of Evansville

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum In 1919, Alfred Hughes, the first president of Evansville College, urged the city of Evansville to purchase a great concert organ, hailed as "one of the largest organs in the United States." While attending the Methodist Centenary in Columbus, Ohio, President Hughes had learned that the convention hall organ, built by the M.P. Möller Company, would be available for purchase after the centenary celebrations. Evansville College pledged $5000 toward the purchase of the $35,000 organ. The four-manual and pedal organ with six divisions was placed in the recently completed Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum in downtown Evansville. The more than 5000 pipes range in size from tiny metal tubes smaller than a pencil to massive wooden boxes thirty-two feet long by two feet square. Click here for a photo album of the Milton Z. Tinker Memorial Organ.

The dedication concerts of the organ and the opening ceremonies of Evansville College were held the same week in November, 1919. The college's opening convocation was preceded by a half hour organ recital. That same year, the College established a Department of Music and appointed the recently named municipal organist, James R. Gillette, the first chairman of the department.

In 1949, Evansville College and the Vanderburgh County Commissioners signed an agreement for the maintenance of the organ by the county and the continued use of the organ by Evansville College, both under the direction of Evansville College organ professor, Ralph Waterman. Under this arrangement, the College would have virtually unlimited access to the organ for teaching and practice for "advanced students." In return, the College would be responsible for providing free public organ recitals in response to the commissioners' desire that the instrument be "skillfully utilized, frequently played and heard in recital by the citizens of Vanderburgh County."

In 1963, with the construction of Wheeler Concert Hall, the University commissioned Walter Holtkamp of Cleveland, Ohio, to build a new three manual and pedal pipe organ suitable for the 265 seat concert hall. This instrument, situated in the center of other scholarly and creative musical activity on the campus, became the primary teaching, practice, and performing instrument for the growing Department of Music.

Holtkamp Organ in Neu Chapel Two years later with the construction of Neu Chapel, it was first thought that since the University had so recently built a new pipe organ for Wheeler Hall, an electronic substitute would have to do for the chapel. However, a generous bequest from the Burrows family of New Harmony, Indiana, enabled Evansville College to again call on Walter Holtkamp to build a two manual and pedal pipe organ "suitable for the needs of an active chapel program." College Organist, Carl Staplin, performed the dedication recital on the Neu Chapel organ as he had three years earlier on the Wheeler Concert Hall organ.

In 1971, under the guidance of University Organist, Robert Luther, the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas built a two manual and pedal practice pipe organ. Located in Krannert Hall of Fine Arts, this instrument helped to alleviate the growing demands for practice time on the Holtkamp organs.

Late in 1993, the University purchased a one manual and pedal mechanical-action organ built in 1968 by C.B. Fisk, Inc. of Gloucester, Massachusetts. University Organist, Douglas Reed, and John Schreiner, organ builder and associate of C.B. Fisk, Inc., moved the organ to Evansville in February, 1994. It is used extensively for teaching, practice, and solo performance. Originally tuned in equal temperament, the organ was re-tuned in Kellner-Bach tempermament in 1994. In August, 2006, John Schreiner re-tuned the organ into quarter-comma meantone. Click here for a photo album of the installation of Fisk Opus 52 in Neu Chapel.

Portativ Organ Design Drawing In 1999, with a gift from the McGary Family of Newburgh, Indiana, the University of Evansville commissioned John Schreiner to build a 3-stop portativ organ based on a design by John Brombaugh. The Francile MacDonald McGary Organ was dedicated in 2000. Morgan Pike, Gloucester, Massachusetts, carved decorative panels in walnut to depict walnut leaves and branches. The instrument is used often for practice and for chamber music performance at various locations on campus and in the surrounding community. Click here for a photo album of the McGary Organ.

Many University of Evansville organ students have distinguished themselves in various church, academic, and business positions. They have earned advanced degrees at institutions such as the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and the University of Iowa. Among these students have been winners or finalists in local, regional and national performance competitions sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, Indiana Music Teachers Association, and the Scarrit College of Christian Workers. The William Gumberts Award, the highest student performance award bestowed by the University of Evansville Department of Music, has been earned by three organ majors, Matthew Baugh, Matthew Boatmon, and Douglas O'Neill.


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