In 1942, Dr. Frank B. Jordan arrived in Des Moines to become the new dean of the College of Fine Arts at Drake University. It wasn’t too much later he helped organize the first chapter of the American Guild of Organists in Des Moines. An early focus was developing the skills of local church organists. Another focus was raising funds for student scholarships. Every few years, the chapter sponsored a guest recitalist who played a benefit concert and judged a competition of student performers from colleges and universities in Central Iowa. The local winner advanced to regional, and potentially, national competitions.
Our chapter planned and hosted the 1961 regional convention of the American Guild of Organists. Under the leadership of Russell Saunders, Drake University, and Bob Burns, First Methodist Church, the convention featured famous organ instructor Arthur Poister of Syracuse University and the music of J. S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein.
Another major project was the Pipe Organ Encounter in 1999. Dr. Carl Staplin and Dr. Naomi Rowley spearheaded a music camp at Drake University for thirty-four organ students ages 11-19. Seventeen instructors provided daily lessons in area churches leading up to a final concert featuring the student performers.
The Central Iowa Chapter of the AGO again hosted a regional convention in 2011. Des Pipes, Des Pedals, Des Moines was marketed to the local community as an organ festival, leading to four consecutive evenings of standing-room-only audiences. They heard a hymn festival led by Aaron David Miller, concerts by Jan Kraybill and Christopher Houlihan, and the Brahms Requiem performed by the Des Moines Choral Society. The planning committee was headed by Central College’s Mark Babcock and Dr. Davis Folkerts arranged a day trip to Pella which included a silent film accompanied by the Barton Theater Organ at the Pella Opera House.
Of course, in between the major events we continue to hold many, many monthly chapter meetings. Workshops, training, chapter recitals, masterclasses, materials for professionals and amateurs, fellowship – this is the heart and soul of the Central Iowa Chapter and the reason members faithfully participate in AGO year after year.