Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘creativity’

The Seven P’s

Proper Prior Practice Prevents Piddly Poor Performance

Once again, David and I have been traveling and performing and once again, I’ve met creative colleagues — teachers, performers, church musicians all.  Of course, we talk about our work in all its guises and share ideas, thoughts, repertoire, and pithy comments.

From my conversations with Gregory Largent in Saginaw, Michigan comes the inspiration for this article — the 7 P words.   These seven little words just happen to be very apropos this month with the Jordan Organ Studio Spring Recital just a few weeks away.

Let’s take this pithy little phrase apart and see just what we performers are up against!

Proper = of the required type; suitable or appropriate.

Prior = existing or coming before in time, order, or importance.

Practice = to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

Prevents = keep (something) from happening or arising.

Piddly = pathetically trivial; trifling.

Poor = worse than is usual, expected, or desirable; of a low or inferior standard or quality.

Performance = a person’s rendering of a dramatic role, song, or piece of music.


Pretty, Pleasant, Pleasing, Profound, Polished, Passionate Performances!



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.



You are a unique, differentiated, gloriously individual human being

by David Jordan
(First published in the May 2018 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter)

There is an urban rumor going around that “you can be anything you want to be.”  Well, it’s not true. But you can be a whole lot more of who you are and what you are. What you really are at the core of your being. And that’s significant.

You are truly A unique, differentiated, gloriously individual human being. You don’t have to look far to see what gifts your real gifts are. Deep down you know what they are. We spend too much of our lives thinking we should be someone else.

What we want to be is often a desperate effort to fulfill someone else’s opinion of what they think we should be. Don’t. At this point, you already have enough gifts to develop than you have ever imagined

The problem is, they are uniquely yours. You may feel that those gifts should be more like someone else’s. The world doesn’t need more clones. It needs your personal, individual, unique, okay, bizarre, contributions to make the wheel we call earth, move the way it was meant to move.

Personally, and you don’t have to look it up because I happen to be right.  I think the progress of this earth would have been centuries ahead if we humans would have worked at being the best with the gifts given us, rather than continually adhering to someone else’s desire for us.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen used to say; “if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.” Could that also be a metaphor for lighting the candle of talent and gifts you have been given that are unique and were created in and for you? What you think is one little candle could be a huge firework waiting to take off.


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.

Dr. Brian Mathias and the BYU Organ Program

(Excerpted from the May 2018 Guest Artist Interview of the Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter)

Jeannine:  You have taught in the School of Music at Brigham Young University since 2014 and have served on the faculty of the annual BYU Organ Workshop. Would you please describe for our readers the organ program at the University and how these University courses and specifically the Summer Organ Workshops are meeting the needs of church musicians.

Dr. Matthias:  BYU is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As you are probably aware, our church has an entirely lay ministry, so the organists of our congregations throughout the world are all volunteers. For this reason, the BYU organ department has a unique focus. In addition to the lessons and curriculum we offer for organ majors, we have a variety of offerings for those who want to learn basic hymn playing skills in preparation for volunteer service in the church.

For university students, we offer two semesters of beginning organ instruction in a small group format. These classes are held in our organ lab that houses twelve electronic organs. In any given semester, we have around 100 students enrolled in these courses.  Of course, we also offer more traditional private lessons for organ majors and non-majors, which typically amounts to another 30-35 student each semester. That’s a lot of organ teaching each week!

As exciting as everything happening on campus is, our focus is much broader than just the university community. We have a variety of offerings intended for early-level organists everywhere. These include online independent study courses, the annual week-long BYU Organ Workshop, 10-12 weekend “outreach” workshops offered in various locations around the United States each year, and a variety of online resources that can be accessed free of charge. Credit for these many projects goes largely to my colleague Don Cook (current AGO Councilor for Education), who has been working to get organ training into the hands of organists everywhere for many years. Those curious about our program can find more information at organ.byu.edu.

When it comes to organ, BYU is an exciting place to be, and I will certainly miss being a part of all the wonderful things going on there.

Jeannine:  Congratulations Brian on your new position and thank you for sharing your story with us.


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.

David Stabler – teacher

Jeannine:  You’re now teaching a series of music appreciation classes called The Infinite Power of Music. It’s my understanding that they are live, in the classroom classes – not online, but interactive instructor-led, student-involved classes. Would you please tell us why this adventure is important to you – to your students – to us?

Mr. Stabler:  I never knew I would love teaching like this! Writing music criticism is a form of teaching, but standing in front of people is a different form of it and I love the immediacy and hearing people’s reactions and questions about music I love. I probably should video the classes, but those are complications I haven’t addressed. I usually speak for 15 or 20 minutes, then we watch and talk about YouTube videos that illustrate points I want to share. My subjects have included Great Endings, Weather Wonders (how composers write about storms, rain, oceans, sunsets), Timeless Symphonies (Mahler 2), Mavericks (composers who disrupt and change music), why some melodies grab us and the Mysteries of Conducting — comparing leadership styles among conductors, from dictatorial to collaborative. The list of classes this year is on my website: davidstabler.net.  My most popular class so far was Music of Healing — the music we turn to when we seek solace.

Jeannine:  Last summer, you and your brother embarked on a journey few in this world will experience – a 3,600-mile 50-day bike ride across the United States of America. Astounding! Just one question (and for those who have many more, please direct us to your blog) – what music did you discover on your ride?

Mr. Stabler:  I didn’t discover any music on the ride, but I will tell you what music got me through those relentless headwinds across the plains of Wyoming and South Dakota. I would sing to myself anything with strong rhythms to keep the pedals turning: “Waltzing Matilda,” Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the Toreador song, the Overture to “Marriage of Figaro” and, of course, “America, the Beautiful” because we saw it all: amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, fruited plains and sea to shining sea.

Jeannine:  Thank you, David.  It was wonderful to learn of your world.

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.

David Stabler – music critic

Jeannine:  Your writing career spans several decades as the classical music critic for The Oregonian. As an organist, I always admired and was extremely thankful for your unwavering publicity for organists, organ concerts, and new organs in the Portland area. This is rare. Why were you drawn to our little niche of the world?

Mr. Stabler:  You’re too generous. Right after I arrived at The Oregonian in 1986, John Strege, then the organist/choirmaster at Trinity EpiscopalCathedral, called to say they were building a new organ. I agreed to take a look. Days later, he picked me up and took me to the church where we watched Manuel Rosales and his colleagues put this incredible instrument together. I returned every few weeks to document their progress and then watched in awe as Strege dedicated Op. 11 with a concert to a standing-room crowd. Organs, organ music and organ players fill their spaces with glorious, complex, astounding music, so I was irresistibly drawn to it.

Jeannine:  Would you share with us one – or two or three – favorite stories from your music critic days?
Mr. Stabler:  So many stories. I remember a Russian pianist whose cummerbund snapped apart during Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” and landed on his lap. Instead of letting it sit there, he tried to fling it away, but it landed on the piano strings, buzzing and jumping. Still playing, he half stood and swiped at it, but it wouldn’t move, so he gave up and finished with John Cageian flourishes.

But seriously, I learned it’s easier to write about a really bad or a really good concert. The ones in the middle are death to write about. The best concerts stay with me — a Schubert piano trio at Chamber Music Northwest that made us swoon, and not because of the torrid summer night in the old Reed College Commons. It was the kind of performance where I felt connected to everyone in the room, and to the players, almost as if we were breathing together. And the night Leontyne Price sang art songs and spirituals to a quarter-filled house at Schnitzer Hall. “We love you!” someone shouted. “I love you, too!” she said.

I also loved writing a series called “The Sounds of Oregon,” where I recorded and wrote about iconic sounds of the state: a thunderstorm above the Snake River Canyon, a wildfire in Roseburg, water falling at Multnomah Falls, a Friday night jam session in Burns.

I would just like to add that I’m terribly sad that newspapers around the country — and the world — have decreased their arts coverage so quickly and decisively. Just a few years ago, The Oregonian had 15 full-time critics on staff, covering Portland, mostly, but also festivals and events throughout the Northwest. Now, the paper has a TV critic, a food critic and an arts editor who writes mostly about books and oversees freelance coverage. The Oregon Symphony hasn’t had a newspaper review in several years. I remember one summer, I covered the “Ring” Cycle in Seattle, then flew to Medford to cover the Oregon Music Festival in Coos Bay, and music events at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

What we lose when a mass media publication decreases arts coverage is the chance to extend our thinking and conversation about art beyond the experience itself. Most of us are naturally curious to know what others thought about a play, a dance, an exhibit.

On the plus side, we are lucky to have Oregon ArtsWatch, 

an online, non-profit arts journal that dispatches dozens of freelance writers to cover the arts, mostly in Portland.

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.

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