The Fulbright Program in 1986 was an amazing adventure. I had just two years of German, so I arrived early to attend the Goethe Institute language course. It gave me just enough to survive the classes I would have to take two months later. Fortunately Prof. Peter Planyavsky enjoyed giving my organ lessons in English! The summer months were important, and not only for the language skills—they also gave me the opportunity to join a pop music band working with Liedermacher Robert Holly.
This double life of practicing classical organ music by day and performing pop music by night became one of the greatest joys of my life. I was able to play the amazing organs in Austria and at the same time travel with our pop group and become thoroughly immersed in Austrian culture. I made many Austrian friends who have influenced my life. Their gemütlichkeit was amazing.
This dual life became a unique selling point as I became a full-time church musician in 1990. Church music was embracing more of the contemporary Christian music yet desired to maintain the excellence of the classical/traditional repertoire. I found a new home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and have served two Presbyterian churches over the last 30 years. The experiences I received in Austria continue to shape the way I perform, teach, and direct.
This year, I felt the call to return to Austria and reconnect. So next summer I am bringing my church choir to participate in the Beethoven Choral Festival by Music Celebrations International, performing with other choirs at Stephansdom on Friday, June 12, 2020. I will also present a short organ recital at Melk Stiftkirche. It is with great joy and anticipation that I bring these two worlds together and introduce my choir to the amazing people, music, architecture, art, and history of Austria.