Good morning, AGO readers. Today we are featuring Region IV (Alabama, Bermuda, Florida, Georgia, Eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee)’s Councillor, Dr. Laura Ellis. Check out the link to her blog at the bottom of the page after the interview!
Thank you for agreeing to be a part of our DYKYAGO series, Laura! Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
I am originally from southern Minnesota and received a BA degree from Luther College (Decorah, IA), an MM/Church Music, and DMA/Organ Performance from the University of Kansas. Here at the University of Florida, I teach applied organ, carillon, harpsichord, and courses in the area of Sacred Music. Prior to moving to Florida, I taught at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, and the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.
How did you begin to learn about the American Guild of Organists?
I began organ lessons in the 8th grade and joined the AGO sometime in high school. While my small home town of Albert Lea, MN, didn’t have it’s own AGO chapter, the Southeastern Minnesota (which included members from the Rochester, MN, area) was fairly active. So, I’ve been receiving TAO’s for many years!
When did you begin to learn how to play the organ?
The Lutheran church where I was member as a child had an active music program (and a three-manual tracker!). My participation in the choral program began in elementary school. The minister of music hosted a competition for high school piano students – the winner won a free year of organ lessons. I won two years in a row . . . my start in the organ world!
Have you done anything else as a career besides organ?
Other than jobs at my father’s hardware store in the summers, I have been fortunate to make my living teaching organ and serving as organist in churches.
Are there any particular challenges to being Councillor for Region IV?
The main challenge is the size of the region and the limits of time! I truly enjoy getting to know the members and visiting local chapters, but there are only so many hours in the day!
What do you find most rewarding in your life?
My interaction with college students is wonderful! I most enjoy seeing the amount of musical growth that can occur during the undergraduate years . . . perhaps the student’s first time on the organ bench . . . their fascination with the sounds and gadgetry . . . performing . . . church positions . . . recitals, etc. It is joy to see them blossom as musicians.
What is your favorite album (organ, classical or otherwise)?
Jeanne Demessieux’s recordings of the complete works of Franck.
How did you become involved in the technological part of your AGO Region (http://agoregionivblog.blogspot.com)?
After becoming Regional Councillor, I know that I wanted to have an online presence to highlight the activities within the Region. It is also fun to provide highlights of regional meetings and national council events. Hopefully, more and more members within the region will follow the blog and submit information.
How important do you think it is that the AGO continues to broaden its horizon through technology?
Yes, I think technology is important for keeping current. The difficult part of technology and social media is that as soon as you think you are ‘current’ a new technology emerges! Region IV also has a Facebook page (as do many of the chapters in our region). I think this has great possibilities as well. Who knows where the future will lead, but I hope to stay abreast of the new technologies and keep our region up-to-date.
Do you have any goals for Region IV or your own personal AGO Chapter?
Goals: that all chapters within the region are welcoming, productive, and have inspiring programs. My personal AGO chapter, Gainesville (FL), is hosting a POE this summer – so, I hope for a successful POE for the students!
Thank you, Laura, for your participation. The Region IV blog can be found at http://agoregionivblog.blogspot.com.