Music Division receives handmade practice organ

  • The partially assembled Wahl organ.

  • A close-up of the organ's custom-carved casework.

  • Instructor of Organ Tom Bara and an organ student get their first look at the organ's front facade.

  • An organ student tests the instrument part-way through the assembly process.

On April 25, 2018, the Interlochen Arts Academy organ studio welcomed a new, custom-built practice organ from Wahl Organbuilders.

“In so many ways it is the instrument itself that teaches the player,” said Tom Bara, Instructor of Organ at Interlochen Center for the Arts. “To gain mastery of all the parameters of control, a student needs an instrument that reveals subtle differences in touch. This organ will address our need to provide a practice organ with the utmost responsiveness and sensitivity.”

Bara first heard about Wahl Organbuilders from some of his former students, who are studying at Curtis Institute of Music. The conservatory owns a Wahl practice organ nearly identical to the organ that was made for Interlochen.

After receiving the recommendation, Bara visited the Appleton, Wisconsin workshop to see and play Wahl’s organs, ultimately deciding that a Wahl instrument was the perfect solution to his studio’s need.

Having decided to pursue a Wahl organ for his studio, Bara moved forward with securing funding for the instrument. One of the students who recommended the company, Bryan Dunnewald (IAA 11-14, IAC 08-09, 11), gave the first gift to the fund for the new organ, followed by his parents, David and Kathleen Dunnewald. Catherine Haines and Alexander Jones, the parents of recent graduate Martin Jones (IAC 14, IAA 14-17), gave the leadership gift to complete the project.

Wahl is a family-run workshop that both restores historic instruments and builds new instruments. Each organ is customized to the needs of the client, both in performance and aesthetic. Bara selected dark walnut for the organ’s key cheeks and fine-grain oak for the casework. The organ’s hall facade is decorated with carvings of starbursts, with the red, blue and yellow of the Interlochen logo on the sides of each carved edge.

The organ was installed in a second-story room in the southeast corner of the Frohlich Piano and Percussion Building overlooking the Giddings Concourse and the Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall. This area of Frohlich has already begun its transition into the designated organ wing, and will be connected to the new Music Building when it is completed in the spring of 2019.