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Organist Jared Johnson at the Skinner Organ at Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church
Erik Wm. Suter Organist standing next to the Aeolian-Skinner Organ console at Saint John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Forest Park, Illinois

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How to raise money to restore a pipe organ Part I

Restoring a pipe organ is a daunting task, even repairing a pipe organ is a significant project. How often have organists heard, well it would be nice to get the organ working again if we had the money to do the work. There are three simple paths that can be taken when dealing with a pipe organ in need of repair or restoration:

    1. do nothing and let the organ go mute
    2. find a few financially wealthy people to underwrite the expensive cost of the work
    3. involve a lot of people giving a little money.

 

Many churches with great pipe organs do not have the financial resources they once did when the general public attended church on Sunday with the same regularity that they get their coffee at Starbucks. So what do you do when your church does not have the budget to undertake the repair of a pipe organ or the restoration of a pipe organ? Well, let me ask another question: how would one person eat an elephant? If you try to do it all at once it would be impossible, but if you cut it up, it can be done over time. Now before you report me to Save the Elephants, I am only using the idea of eating an elephant to illustrate my point.

 

Any large project can seem impossible and overwhelming until you can convince yourself that you can do it! You just need the below and the belief in yourself and a team that believes in you. 

 

    1. A plan. Do over analyze but come up with something reasonable. Write it down. 
    2. Break your plan up into manageable smaller goals. Write them down. Look at them everyday. 
    3. Plan on the plan being revised numerous times, but always have a plan and have it written.

 

As a wise man named Ben Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!"

 

The most critical first step in any project like this is to establish trust in the people who are in legal control of the pipe organ. This will not happen overnight. Think of what you are asking and the risks that your good intentions pose to the Pastor, Rector or Minister at the church.

 

You can leave but they are stuck with what you could potentially leave undone. At Our Lady of Refuge I established this trust with the Pastor and the parish by repairing 2 bellows and getting the pipe organ working again and being involved with different parish committees. All along everyone saw that I followed through with everything I said I would do. From this sad day the pipe organ was removed in 2007 until its dedication in 2013 the team of people never gave up. You can do the same.

 

What pipe organs have you tried to lead the effort to restore?

What results have you had?

Email me your questions, I would be happy to give you my advice.

 

 

In Part II - will cover ways to tell the world about a pipe organ in need.

 

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