Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for the ‘Multi-media organ concert experiences’ Category

From Virgil Fox to U of M

(Excerpted from the Guest Artist Interview with Howard Wagner, comptroller of Harpsichord Clearing House as published in the August 2018 edition of the Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter)

Jeannine:  What was it like to meet the flamboyant and venerable Virgil Fox?

Howard:  All of the participants stood outside on the church steps awaiting the arrival of Fox.  Virgil arrived in his white Cadillac Eldorado convertible – no it was not pink as the folklore states, and he wasn’t wearing a cape – and looking out the open driver’s window said “How’re doin?” one of his standard greetings. I can picture this scene as if it were yesterday.

The Fox Master Class was both eye and ear opening for me. Virgil mentioned during the class that during the upcoming summer, he was taking on three private students at his home in NJ.  I knew at that point that I wanted to study with him – probably the following year if possible.

Time went by, and several months before the next summer approached I told my father of my interest in studying the organ with Fox.  He appeared to make a mental note of the request.

A few weeks later, my dad said to me at dinner, I spoke with Virgil Fox today and he will take you on as a student this summer.  I was speechless, since Fox was like a god to me, and couldn’t understand how my dad was able to do this, so I asked, “how did you do that?”  He replied I called his management, (Richard Torrence), and got his phone number, and called him up. I thought that was amazing.

And the rest, as they say is history.  I studied for a year with Virgil, and it transformed my playing and understanding of music.  My senior year English teacher at Poly Prep was Miles Kastendieck, who was a music critic for one of the major New York City Newspapers concurrent with his teaching duties at Poly. Even Kastendieck, who from his reviews never liked very much, was quite complimentary when I had a chance to perform at Poly during dome of the music programs.

Jeannine:  After the tremendous life-changing experience as a mere high-schooler, I might add, what was to follow?

Howard:  It was on to the University of Michigan, organ and piano study and the requisite music classes. However, it was at U of M that I was exposed to the harpsichord.  The historical harpsichord revival was in its infancy – lots of kits – and few builders.  There was a fellow named Randy who established the “Bach Club” and it often featured harpsichord performers which included Penny Crawford, who used to perform on her Burton kit harpsichord, and Bruce Gustofson, a doctoral student then, who performed on his own William Dowd harpsichord.  So, it was early early on that I noted the vast difference between a kit and professionally built harpsichord.

Jeannine:  Is this what drew you into the early music world?

Howard:  Yes, at this point, I was hooked on authentic performance of early music.  Anthony Newman, although not from U of M was a rising star and I became a big fan particularly of his pedal harpsichord recordings. BTW Virgil Fox sat on one of Newman’s juries for one of his degrees describing him as a madman and a genius. Similar personalities attract!

So that was the beginning of involvement in the Early Music World.  I went on to get an MBA, and had a teaching fellowship, and with money I had earned and saved was able to purchase my first harpsichord from Eric Herz.





On the Train, Off the Train, On the Train, Off the Train…

Sometimes you run across a story that seems to permeate many different situations and circumstances. Life happens…and life goes on. We get on the train, get off the train, get on the train, get off the train.  Why didn’t I see that coming? Whether you are interested in music, research, daily life, reading, playing, this story will add a new insight into what choices you have now and into your future. Truly, it ain’t over until it’s over.

David Jordan shared this article in our June 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.

On the Train, Off the Train, On the Train, Off the Train…

David Promo Photo2The Railroad is in my genes. My grandfather was a railroad engineer for the Canadian Pacific railroad. I love the sounds of trains, feeling the ground shake, the gigantic mass of energy and power as they go by. I love watching the massive steel structure devour the tracks.

My first recollection of a train was when I was 4 years old. My grandmother and I were on the way from Toronto to Detroit. I remember being in the rail car and looking out the window. Without any hint or sensation, we were moving, as if we’d been moving all along. That was magical. To this day that vision and experience are with me.

The train started a long time ago. Okay, eons ago, and at some exact point in time, we boarded the train. We don’t remember or know exactly when we started.  The train started somewhere unbeknownst to us. And it is going somewhere, unbeknownst to us. In between are many and varied stations. Some people stop at each station others seem to take the bullet train.

We do know two things:

A.  We are on the train and

B.  It is moving.

(The second installment of this article is coming soon…watch your FB or LinkedIn to read more).

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.

Practice as Devotion

Ideas for incorporating devotions into your organ practice

Enter into the practice session with a short prayer or moment of silence to center yourself.

Be mindful to review in advance what you would like to focus on or accomplish with the practice session. Warm up with the technical exercises first. Demonstrate self-denial (sacrifice) by first practicing those least pieces (or sections of a piece) that you like to avoid, save for last, or sometimes skip altogether.

In the middle of your practice, take a break from actually playing and read a Psalm, the lyrics to a favorite hymn, or a devotional reading from one of the resources mentioned earlier.

Meditate a few minutes focusing on what you have read. Resume your practice with a gracious attitude while reflecting on how incredibly awesome the organ is at expressing musically the text, theme, mood, and/or sentiments of a hymn or repertoire.

Always end a practice session on a positive note and with gratitude.

One option is to close your organ practice with a “postlude” – something you can play musically with confidence — a piece that brings you joy. This may even be a simple composition with a beautiful soundscape that is not technically complex.

The possibilities are endless for connecting contemplative spirituality or devotional meditation with organ practice are endless – allow yourself to be creative.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.

Enriching Your Organ Practice

Effective organ practice can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis. Why? Are we approaching our practice too casually? Is our organ practice starting to get monotonous with technical exercises and boring repetition? Are we spending too much time playing what we like to focus on or enjoy but neglecting those important technical exercises or compositions that will help get us to the next level? I am certainly guilty of all of the above.

Finding time is another factor that can impede a disciplined habit of practicing the organ. Life — with hours spent working, family obligations, social engagements, and church can leave little time left to practice the organ.

Idea! Adding an element of the sacred to your organ practice may spiritually enrich your practice experience. A colleague recommended incorporating spiritual devotion into my organ practice rather than adopting additional spiritual practices or setting aside more discretionary time for devotional study. How wonderfully practical! Practicing the organ also then becomes a devotional act and a spiritual practice.

Hymnody provides a rich treasury of devotional lyrics. Many hymn texts are based on scripture so also incorporate a biblical element when used as a source of devotion.  There are also a number of books and resources published to support using hymns as a source of devotional practice. These include Open Your Hymnal- Devotions that Harmonize Scripture with Song by Denise K. Loock, The One Year Book of Hymns by Robert Brown, and Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth Osbeck. These resources provide devotional readings based upon classic hymns of the Christian faith. 

Jeannine OcalaAdopting contemplative or meditative aspects to your organ practice may contribute to experiencing the music more deeply. By doing so, you enhance your ability to play musically rather than intellectually. Another benefit is the positive psychological associations that may occur when organ and devotional practice are blended.  An organist may gain more confidence, resolve and commitment to improving organ skills. Organ practice becomes much more than tackling the assignment from the prior lesson and assuring oneself of being prepared or appearing prepared for the next lesson (or church service or recital).


Dr. Jeannine Jordan, a teacher with an active organ studio has also been a church musician most of her life.  She is also a concert organist and with her husband David, media artist,  is the creator and performer of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.



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