Browsing The Northern Cross

Jeff Urbaniak: Organists needed in our local Catholic churches

By Jeff Urbaniak
Guest columnist

We are blessed to have so many beautiful pipe organs in our local area. These instruments enhance worship in our Masses and other worship services. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated the organ is to be a prominent instrument within our churches (though not the only instrument). Organs are prominent because they can carry the sound throughout the church, supporting congregational singing, choirs, soloists as well as other instruments and orchestras. Organs enhance worship with hymns, preludes, interludes, and postludes.

What is the issue?

The lack of recruiting and training for the next generation of organists. We need to be developing new organists. Most organists begin by learning to play the piano. After developing some skills, the organ can become an additional instrument. Once the student develops their organ skills, they can obtain part time paid employment as organists in our churches.

What can each person do to help?

Encourage young piano students to also learn to play the organ. An upcoming event introducing younger people to the organ will be held in Duluth on Saturday, April 28, from 9 a.m. until noon. “Pedals, Pipes & Pizza,” sponsored by the Arrowhead Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, introduces ages fifth grade through 12th grade to the organ. The students visit several area organs, see how they are built, and play each of them. The morning will end with a pizza lunch. This is a free event. To register contact Jeff Urbaniak at (218) 348-7154 or [email protected]

Local scholarship fund to pay for lessons

There are scholarship funds to help pay for organ lessons. The Arrowhead Chapter of the American Guild of Organists offers up to eight scholarships yearly for area students. Students are eligible for this scholarship for up to three years. For information on the scholarship program, visit or contact Jeff Urbaniak at the contact information above.

Iron Range Scholarship fund to pay for lessons

The Trox-Hamilton Memorial Scholarship Fund is available for Iron Range students. Funded through the summer organ series in the Hibbing area called “Organs in Review.” For more information, contact Vicky Gornick at (218) 996-1142 or [email protected]

Jeff Urbaniak is the choir organist at St. James Catholic Church, Duluth. He enjoys playing the organ for Mass and funerals. Jeff is the board secretary for the local organ guild — Arrowhead Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, By profession, Urbaniak is a full time Realtor.