Why did you become interested in organ music?
I've always been interested in music, even from the day I was born. I used to fabricate record players from different items in the household like batteries and can openers and such. I was always able to recognize songs and song titles from my mother's record collection.
I think going to going my grandmother's church in New Salem, Pa., is where I was kind of moved by the pipe organ sound. I started studying organ when I was in second grade, and played in my parish church when I was in high school and I started taking lessons from the person who was here at the time, Tony DeCello. Since I was a student of his, I would be called upon to assist here. I've been here for 20 years.
Why were you attracted to classical music during the popular music explosion of groups like the Beach Boys?
I love the Beach Boys. I think the classical and traditional specter of the music kind of resonated with my own spirituality. As a classical musician, you don't really study popular music, but I certainly have a respect and a regard for many kinds of music.
I think the different emotions the organ can touch upon are really what attracted me to it. It can be as gentle as the softest breeze and or as thunderous as the wildest storm. And those are kind of the images you have of God sometimes. Gentle yet awesome. I think it's that quality of classical sacred music that resonates with me. You know how a pipe organ will react with your body, it's a neat feeling. I was always fascinated by that.
What do you try to bring to people with your ministry?
I treat my ministry as a preacher treats his ministry, to expound on the Scripture readings, and to bring those Scripture readings more alive in people.
The hymns we chose are Scripture-based, the choral repertoire is Scripture based. I try to select organ music that is will either be based on the hymns that we select or represent a certain style of music, so that people are always aware of the different, historical styles of organ music.
I kind of liken it to a calling. I think when priests are ordained they feel a calling to their ministry. I think with my ministry, it's something that grabbed me, I didn't grab it. I'm a very spiritual person, and I trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I prepare the music as best I can, but when it comes time to do it, I put it all in God's hands.
How do you make selections?
Basically, there's a pattern of responses that we will sing according to the season. For example, what we sing in Advent will sound a lot different from what we sing during Christmastime.
Are many people drawn by the music?
Oh, yeah. It's a unique environment with our organ, the acoustics and our choir. I do all the weddings, which is at least 50 a year.
Do you run into problems with people wanting unsuitable music?
We have a wonderful rector who officiates at most of the weddings. They are told to realize they are here to pray and worship God, and this isn't "Entertainment Tonight."
Tell me about Musica Sacra.
Ron Gould [Youngstown State University Dana School of Music professor and organist at St. John's Episcopal Church] usually conducts and I accompany on organ. It includes the cathedral choir and at St. John's choir and different choral ensembles from YSU. We perform one large work in October of every year. It's one of the few opportunities we have to do a classic monument of choral music with orchestra.
What are people looking for?
The whole idea of coming to church and celebrating the Eucharist is to change your life. I think people come to renew their lives as Christians. Whatever we can do musically or homiletically to make that happen, that's what we do. My whole philosophy is that my job is to bring beauty because we are here to worship God who is ultimate beauty.
What do you do in your free time?
I've composed music that is published by GIA. I ride my bike. I have eight nieces and nephews I like to spend time with. I love to travel.