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Evansville AGO
Newsletter of the American Guild of Organists 
Evansville, Indiana Chapter
September, 2004


In preparation for this newsletter edition, I have been thinking about the purpose of the American Guild of Organists.  I suppose I could get out the copy of the national bylaws and quote that word for word, but allow me to indulge in some independent brainstorming.  What is the purpose of the AGO?  The simplest answer would be that the group exists in order to promote the organ.  Fine, but what makes us different from other such organizations, say, for instance, the International Double Reed Society?  Perhaps we have a higher purpose, because the organ is a church instrument.  Well, no.  The AGO is allied with church organizations, but is not a religious organization itself.  The organ was actually considered profane in its original incarnation, and even today, it is not expressly a church instrument.  The ranks of the American Guild of Organists include not only Christian church musicians, but synagogue organists, academics, secular theatre organists, performers, and others.  I think the answer may lie not in the “organists” part of the title, but instead in that second word, “guild”.  Guilds have existed for centuries, as organizations of people devoted to certain crafts (e.g., guilds of woodworkers).  I think that is what we are – we are members of an organization, who gather together in community to share our skills, learn new things about our craft, and develop our talents, and enjoy the company of like-minded people.  Many of us are church musicians, which means that we do dedicate that craft to a higher purpose.  Thus, we will be spending much time this year focusing on developing our skills as church musicians.  Did you know that Martin Luther was a member of a musicians’ guild?  He was a “card-carrying” member of a guild of Meistersingers, who gathered together to sing and share songs.  Even though the Meistersingers were not expressly a religious organization, when Luther began writing German hymns, he relied on those skills as a songwriter in order to craft those wonderful new vernacular religious expressions.  Perhaps Luther can be an example for us all.  This year, let us be a true guild, one in which everybody can learn and share, gathering together to improve our craft.

Douglas O’Neill