DiscoverThe LA AGO Podcast
The LA AGO Podcast
Claim Ownership

The LA AGO Podcast

Author: Host: Thompson Howell

Subscribed: 3Played: 26


Remember that moment when you were first captivated by an organ? When the sounds and sensations drew you in and piqued your curiosity? When you saw an organ console up close for the first time and was overwhelmed by its complexity? When you just knew you wanted to learn how to play one? We all have memories like this and stories to tell about them. In each episode of The LA AGO Podcast, host Thompson Howell speaks with a different member of the Los Angeles Chapter, and occasional special guests, about their own love affair with the organ and how that passion informs their particular involvement with the organ world today. It's not just about what you've done; it's about why you do what you do. Whether you’re a church musician, a concert organist, a teacher, an organ builder or technician, a composer who writes for the organ or simply a fan of the organ and its music, you’ll enjoy hearing the stories of people who are passionate about the organ at every level.
15 Episodes
Episode 15 (Ken Cowan)

Episode 15 (Ken Cowan)


Our next LA AGO event comes up on Sunday, November 14th at 6pm as we welcome organist Ken Cowan in a recital co-sponsored by St. James' In-the-City Episcopal Church at 3903 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.Ken's performance will be preceded by a wonderful service of Evensong at 4:30pm. Both events require FREE tickets that can be reserved here.Regarded as one of North America's finest concert organists and praised for his dazzling artistry, impeccable technique, and imaginative programming by audiences and critics alike, Ken Cowan maintains a rigorous performing schedule that takes him to major concert venues in America, Canada, Europe, and Asia.In this episode, Ken talks with host Thompson Howell about his childhood in Thorold, Ontario, Canada and growing up with his father and two grandmothers who were also organists; how becoming a concert organist wasn't inevitable; the one thing he missed most while teaching remotely during the pandemic; why he likes the comparatively small size of the organ department at Rice University in Houston where he teaches; and the ins and outs of assessing the needs of new students and developing their "musical personalities." Ken also reveals whether or not he's a relaxed performer; how he prepares to play in front of live audiences; the best practice strategy for successfully memorizing pieces; the ways in which he helps to attract younger people to the organ; the one part of the world where there are organs that he hasn't played in yet; and plenty more!Listen at wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Ken's website is here.Ken's 2009 interview in The Diapason is here.Information about the organ at St. James' In-the-City church is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
The LA AGO Podcast is back as the Chapter begins its 2021-2022 season.We kick things off on Monday, October 18th with a Members' Recital at Westwood United Methodist Church in the bustling Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles featuring organists Yoojung Chung, Organist at WUMC, Nicholas Galinaitis, Director of Music & Organist at Newport Harbor Lutheran Church in Newport Beach, CA, and LA AGO Podcast host Thompson Howell. This event will be in-person and will also be live-streamed courtesy of the church. For specific details about this event including information on Covid-19 guidelines that will be in place and how to view the live-stream on the night of the recital if you choose not to attend in person,  please visit the Chapter's website at, Nicholas, and Thompson touch on many topics including: Yoojung's upbringing in South Korea in a family of musicians; the influence of her cousin who exposed her to the organ; how she tries to change some people's negative perception of the organ by playing a good mix of both traditional and contemporary organ repertoire; and how the pandemic allowed her to focus more on her organ practice and become more involved in the organ scene. Nicholas shares his love of Romantic piano literature and how that translates into his organ playing; talks about his memory of watching CBS's Mike Wallace interview pianist Vladimir Horowitz when he was very young; credits his Grandparents for exposing him to the possibilities of the organ; and explains why he moved to Los Angeles from rural Maryland. Plus, the three have an engaging discussion about the importance of finding the right teacher for YOU; whether memorizing repertoire is beneficial; who has the worse commute to their job - Yoojung or Nicholas?; and lots more!Listen at or wherever you get your podcasts.LINKSInformation about the organ at Westwood United Methodist Church is here.Nicholas' website is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
July 30, 2021 is the 90th birthday of American organ icon Dr. Frederick Swann who joined the American Guild of Organists at age 15 and was its president from 2002-2008.This year marks not only Fred's 90th birthday but his 80th year of being a church organist and his 20th year as Artist-in-Residence at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California.Not one to seek the limelight or draw attention to himself, Fred spent most of his career in several very high profile positions that he says he never even applied for. He was simply in the right place at the right time.Fred graciously took the time to speak with host Thompson Howell about a range of topics including why his plans to retire at age 70 didn't exactly work out; his enthusiasm for the younger generation of organists and his optimism about the future of the organ; the positive impact that newer concert hall organs have had on building the increasing popularity of the organ among the general public; the great influence of the radio program Pipedreams and its host, Michael Barone, in further showcasing and promoting the organ; the necessity of any successful organist to be a good "faker"; an update on when the final work on the restoration of the Hazel Wright Organ at Christ Cathedral (formerly Crystal Cathedral) in Garden Grove, California will be able to be completed; the physical challenges he deals with as he gets older that place limitations on his playing abilities; the gratitude he feels for having been blessed with a wonderful career and supportive friends and colleagues; and much more.Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Fred's Wikipedia page is here.Pipedreams episode "Swann Song" (2003) is here.July 25, 2021 Weekend Service from St. Margaret's is here.The AGO Masters Series, Volume 3 featuring Fred Swann:Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Fred's June 23, 2021 interview for the Oral History Program of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is here.Articles:August 5, 1998, The Los Angeles Times.October 22, 2000, The New York Times.November 3, 2014, "A Conversation with Frederick Swann" in The Diapason.March 21, 2017, "Frederick Swann on the Value of the Pipe Organ to the Worshipping Church," Ponder Anew blog.June 26, 2018, The Diapason.May, 2020 feature on the Hazel Wright Organ at Christ Cathedral, The American Organist.Reviews:August 4, 2006, The New York Times.
The LA AGO Podcast celebrates its one year anniversary this month! Can you believe it? Enjoy the fun cold open to this episode to mark this milestone...and thank you for listening to and supporting the podcast!Episode 12 also features another first: More than one guest! Andre Lombardi, Ethan Chow, and Hubert Tran are the current Organ Scholars at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. They join host Thompson Howell to mark the July 1st start of the American Guild of Organists' "Year of the Young Organist" during which many special events and initiatives geared toward young organists will be featured (links to AGO related young organist resources are below). These three high school age organists share their stories of meeting as members of the Diocesan Children's Choir (Catholic Diocese of Orange) founded by Dr. John Romeri, former Director of Music at Christ Cathedral and how their interest in the organ grew from there; emphasize the positive impact of an AGO sponsored "Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza" event that further piqued their interest in the organ; talk about their experiences as Organ Scholars under the tutelage of David Ball, Christ Cathedral's Organist & Acting Director of Music; reflect on the benefits of memorizing repertoire for each of them; and reveal how the experiences they have been given are helping them clarify how they each want to move forward with the organ as part of their lives.Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. LINKS:The Year of the Young Organist website is here.Information on a free year of AGO membership is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
Episode 11 (Cherry Rhodes)

Episode 11 (Cherry Rhodes)


The incomparable Cherry Rhodes is Thompson's guest on this episode of The LA AGO Podcast. A world renowned concert organist and teacher, Ms. Rhodes is Adjunct Professor of Organ at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.With her infectious laugh and sense of humor, Cherry reveals how the organ was not her first love; fondly remembers growing up in a house full of pianists and being exposed at an early age to music of all kinds; recounts the influence of "Pa," her piano technician stepfather and how he bought the first organ she learned on - a Hammond; tells how she felt like "a fish IN water" when she arrived at the Curtis Institute of Music at age 15; talks about how she came to study the music of Max Reger with Karl Richter in Germany but had to go through Bach's Orgelbüchlein first; recounts her time studying in Paris with both Jean Guillou and Marie-Claire Alain after both initially turned her down as a student; shares a funny story about filling in for Guillou at St. Eustache church while she was his assistant; recalls some memorable moments during her "Rhodes trips" concertizing abroad; tells us what she's looking forward to; explains the most common note she gives to new students; and a bunch more you'll only find out by listening!Listen at wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Cherry's bio is here.Details about the Ruth & Clarence Mader Scholarship Fund Composition Competition 2021 are here.“On the road with Cherry Rhodes” touring distant lands to the music of Jean Guillou’s Scènes d’enfant,Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (recorded live).Click for video here. 4 Piezas para la Misa (4 Pieces for the Mass: No. 4. Allegro ) by José Lidón,Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (recorded live).Click here.Orpheus by Franz Liszt (transcription by Jean Guillou), Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles (recorded live).Click here.Montréal Organ Festival 2017,recital of works by Fleury, Bonnet, Vierne, Messiaen, and Walter.Click for video here. Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(transcription by Jean Guillou),Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago, Illinois (recorded live).  Click here.“Toad Talk” featuring Afternoon of a Toad by Clarence Mader, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (recorded live).Click for video here. Revelations of Saint John the Divine for electronic tape and organ by Larry King,Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California (recorded live).Click here.Prelude and Variations on Old Hundredth by Calvin Hampton, University of Texas at Austin.Click here."Six Hands, Six Feet, One Bench":  The Love for Three Oranges  (transcription for three organists by Weicheng Zhao) performed by Ken Cowan, Alan Morrison, and Cherry Rhodes Click for video here. 
The LA AGO's season of events comes to a close on Monday, May 24th at 7pm with our annual Guild Service in which we celebrate another year of fellowship and fine performances. This year's service will be broadcast virtually at St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood (Episcopal) and hosted by the parish's Rector, The Rev. Canon Ian Elliott Davies, and Organist & Master of the Music, Dr. Jeffrey Parola. As with all of our events, the Guild Service will be streamed live via the LA AGO YouTube channel and Facebook page (links below).In this episode, Jeffrey shares with host Thompson Howell his thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his own life; growing up in what he describes as an "organ desert" in Salinas, California; taking on the duties of coordinating and producing the livestream of all Masses from St. Thomas the Apostle in real time from his home; how he was first exposed to classical music by his neighbors; the early development of his interest in composition; his lack of formal training as an organist and his reliance primarily on studying as an autodidact (a self-taught person); his favorite composer and that he tries not to idolize any composer as a person; the rules of music and how they evolved over time with slow growth towards complexity; his work with the Choral Chameleon Institute; whether or not he's found his own voice as a composer; his newly found passion for pasta; and a whole lot more!Listen at wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Jeffrey's website is here.Jeffrey's YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
In Memoriam: Namhee Han - Organ Music From The HeartEpisode 9 of The LA AGO Podcast is a special one in memory of the late Dr. Namhee Han who passed away on March 27, 2020. Run time is 1 hour, 54 minutes.Listen at wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:View or download the Program for this episode here.The obituary for Dr. Han published by The American Organist magazine in July, 2020 is here."Echoes In Memoriam," the virtual organ Facebook tribute curated by Dr. Stanley Harris, is here."Namhee Han: A Remembrance" by Xavier Quintana is here.
Episode 8 (David Ball)

Episode 8 (David Ball)


We're rolling through 2021...and our next online virtual concert comes up at 7pm on Monday, March 22nd streamed live via the LA AGO YouTube channel and Facebook page. David Ball, Organist & Acting Director of Music at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA will be performing from St. Edmund's Episcopal Church in San Marino on its Aeolian Skinner/Rosales organ.David's effervescent personality and the joy he derives from his work clearly shine through in this episode. Host Thompson Howell also introduces a fun new segment!David chats with Thompson about his early years in St. Louis and his time at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis as a chorister and eventual organ student of Dr. John Romeri who would later become the most recent Director of Music at Christ Cathedral; his memories of his time at The Juilliard School studying with Mr. Paul Jacobs; when he learned which particular moment in his Juilliard audition earned his admission to the school; his love of collaboration with other musicians and artists in other disciplines; why he continues to commission new works for organ; the challenges he's had to face at Christ Cathedral during the pandemic especially after the departure of Dr. Romeri in the middle of 2020; his opinions about the use of virtual choirs; his favorite stop on the Hazel Wright Organ; an update on the re-dedication plans for "Hazel;" his proudest accomplishment at Christ Cathedral so far; the fun way he chooses to relax after a busy weekend of services; his comments on his planned program for March 22nd from St. Edmund's Episcopal Church; and a lot more!Listen at wherever you get your podcasts. LINKS:David's website is here.Listen to episodes of "Sounds from The Sanctuary" here.Information about the St. Edmund's organ is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
Episode 7 (John West)

Episode 7 (John West)


It's lucky Episode #7...our longest conversation with a guest to date - and boy, do we cover a lot of ground!February is Black History Month and our guest this time is the inimitable John West, Music/Choral Director & Organist at Hollywood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Host Thompson Howell refers to John as a "multi-talented poly-hyphenate" due to the breadth and variety of John's career as an organist, composer, teacher, and studio session singer for Film and TV.John shares his thoughts on the past year and how he focuses most on the things within his control. He also talks about his organ origin story while growing up in Oakland and his time studying with Richard Purvis at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; playing the Poulenc organ concerto in high school; why being turned down by Juilliard turned out to be a good thing; how he learned to embrace different musical styles and genres and why they can (and have to) all exist together; why he specifically chose the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston to pursue his Masters Degree; what he learned as a songwriter and producer working at the legendary Motown Records in Los Angeles; his experience as a professional black musician working in both the classical and popular music fields; meeting Diana Ross; appearing on the organ program Pipedreams; how he's handled the music program at HUMC during the pandemic; the recent rebuilding and expansion of the 1929 Casavant organ there; and much more!Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Read John's latest bio here.John's website is here.John's YouTube channel is here.John's professional Facebook page is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
The LA AGO Podcast is back with its first episode of 2021!Our first guest of the new year is Dr. Emma Whitten who will be playing for our next virtual event on Monday, January 18th at 7pm from Hollywood United Methodist Church with its grand 1929 Casavant organ. As with all our programs, this event will be streamed live via the LA AGO YouTube channel and Facebook page (links below). Emma shares with host Thompson Howell her reflections on the past year with its challenges and opportunities; her formative years in the Knoxville, Tennessee area; how she landed her first church job at age 11 that paid her a whopping $25; her memories of her first teacher and the 4 rank organ she began taking organ lessons on; her love of puzzles and why she pursued a double degree in Music and Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame; the reason she pursued each of her graduate degrees at a different school; her thoughts on teaching and why she enjoys healthy, constructive arguments with her own teachers and adult students; her travel plans to the UK in 2021; a preview of her program on January 18th together with her impressions of the 1929 Casavant organ at Hollywood United Methodist Church; and much more!Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:You can learn even more and view some of Emma's performances at her website here.More information on the organ at Hollywood United Methodist Church is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
Well, 2020 has been quite the year and a difficult and stressful time for many. We thought it'd be a great idea to shake things up and have a little fun on this last episode of the year. Whadda ya say? You'll certainly understand how in the opening seconds of this episode.LA AGO member and renowned theatre organist Mark Herman is our guest this time on the LA AGO Podcast. Named the 2012 Organist of the Year by the American Theatre Organ Society (the youngest person ever to receive that honor), Mark will be playing for our LA AGO Virtual Holiday Party co-sponsored by LATOS (the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society) on Monday, December 14th at 7pm from Bandrika Studios, the recording studio for film and television composer Nathan Barr which is home to the restored historic Fox Wurlitzer organ. This event will be streamed live via both the LA AGO YouTube channel and Facebook page (links below). Mark talks with host Thompson Howell about his first exposure to the organ back in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the significance of the Embassy Theatre located there; the history of the theatre organ and the process of creating scores for silent films and the skills required to accompany them live; his interest in the silent-era films of Harold Lloyd; why he considers the theatre organ an "emotional instrument;" the legendary history of the Fox Wurlitzer organ which has been featured on many film soundtracks; his experience playing the organ parts at Bandrika for the soundtrack to the film The House with A Clock in Its Walls in 2018; and his recent appointment to the Adjunct Faculty of the University of Oklahoma's organ department teaching theatre organ classes to DMA students - and so much more!Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Mark's website is here.Mark's YouTube channel is here.Mark's Facebook page is here."An Evening with Mark Herman: A Benefit for the Embassy Theatre" is here."The Mighty Wurlitzer" from The House with A Clock in Its Walls is here.The LA AGO YouTube channel is here.The LA AGO Facebook page is here.
Episode 4 (Mark Husey)

Episode 4 (Mark Husey)


Mark Husey, also a member of the Long Beach Chapter, wasn't expecting to be a guest on the LA AGO Podcast so soon, but his Labor Day post on Facebook entitled "Mark Husey's 668 Words on Labor Day" caught the attention of host Thompson Howell and changed that. Mark shares his reflections with Thompson about the Covid-19 pandemic, its impact on creative people of all types and the existential questions it has raised all while still keeping an eye out for those "silver lining" moments. You'll also hear Mark's "Origin Story" including his time growing up in rural Harford County, Maryland; his earliest memory of the organ and the Anglican choral tradition as heard through a black and white TV; how he got to play a pipe organ for the first time in Bel Air (no, not THAT Bel Air); his appreciation for his passionate public school music teachers; the significance of the book "Popes Through The Ages"; his thoughts on being an out, gay, Catholic musician; his time at St. Peter's Church in Columbia, SC and how Mark became a "YouTuber"; his fond memories of his most recent position at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in San Pedro, CA; and so much more!SPECIAL NOTE: We regret to share the news that previous LA AGO Podcast guest Emily Holzer has passed. Thompson discusses this briefly at the beginning of this episode.Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.LINKS:Mark's website is here.Mark's YouTube channel is here.St. Peter's Catholic Church's YouTube channel is here.Read Mark's full "Origin Story" here.Read Mark's Labor Day, 2020 Facebook post here.
Emily Holzer, a 2011 graduate of the University of Redlands with a degree in piano performance, is our guest this time on The LA AGO Podcast. A native of San Diego County, Emily chats with host Thompson Howell about her move to LA in search of a church job; her early exposure to the organ courtesy of her mom; her participation in a Pipe Organ Encounter as a teenager; how she started her first organ studies with Fred Swann and why she found the transition to organ to be difficult at first; her role as a piano teacher and the positive reaction many of her students have had to the organ; her ideas about how to actively engage potential new organists of all ages; how being a part-time musician can have its benefits; why she enjoys being a member of the AGO; the struggles of being a musician during the Covid-19 pandemic; and her grounded and practical approach to her future endeavors. And more!SPECIAL NOTE: We regret to share the news that Emily passed on October 21, 2020. We extend our deepest condolences to Emily's family, friends, and students.Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!LINKS:Hear some of Emily's performances here.
In this episode, host Thompson Howell chats with Honorary Lifetime AGO Member and former LA Chapter Dean Dr. James Vail. A native of Los Angeles with a long and distinguished career as a teacher and church musician spanning many decades, Jim shares his memories of his first exposure to the organ as a boy at First Baptist Church in Los Angeles and how he'd "practice" in the family car. He'll also talk about his desire early on to be a Minister; his time in Philadelphia attending the Curtis Institute of Music; his experience as a Chaplain's Assistant in the Army and accompanying the Brahms Requiem on a Hammond organ while stationed in Germany; his fondness for his tenure at St. John's Episcopal Church (now the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles) and his connection to the McFerrin family; his years teaching at USC together with his thoughts on what makes a good conductor; and memories of his 40 year tenure as Organist & Choirmaster at St. Alban's Episcopal Church. And more!Click here to view the LA Times video we mention.Listen at subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
It's the premiere episode of The LA AGO Podcast from the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Host Thompson Howell chats with Nelson Dodge, LA Chapter Dean who shares the story of his first encounter with an organ as a child. You'll also learn about why we're producing a podcast; how the Guild developed its new Mission Statement; national AGO's Strategic Plan; the Chapter's plans to grow the membership and provide more value; the importance of institutional memory and "tribal knowledge"; and the positive impact of live-streaming our March program featuring Aaron David Miller.   Listen at or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store