Passions Know No Boundaries …

This week, I learned that even professional musicians may have a little “midlife musician” in them.

A friend of mine helped connect me with another aspiring midlife musician who, for many years, has been a friend and supporter of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.   As a result, I was invited to participate in a unique in-home concert to kick off an effort by DSO musicians to restore the Symphony’s original 1924 pipe organ to Orchestra Hall.  See the full story about the restoration effort at  (There are audio interviews, pictures, and other links pertaining to this very cool story.)

It turns out that DSO oboe player Brian Ventura, the leader of the restoration effort, is a “midlife musician”, even though he’s been a professional orchestra player for many years.   As a retirement project, he acquired a pipe organ from a church in Kalamazoo, which he has installed in his family room.  

Marriages have ended with less provocation!

The console takes up at least as much room as a baby grand piano (they have one of those in the living room!) and the pipes cover all of one wall.  The blower motor is in the basement.   Fortunately for Brian, his wife is a keyboard player who minored in organ in college, and willingly supports his new passion.

For the evening’s event, a number of top organists from the local area performed on the organ, including favorite selections from Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and others.  Twice during the evening, there was a duet with the organ and a DSO bass player moonlighting on the trombone.   Brian, meanwhile, told us that organizing the event had taken up a lot of time, and he was — in some ways — anxious for everyone to leave so he could spend some quality time playing the organ.

Which got me to thinking about the root of the word “amateur.”   The word is French, and literally translated means “lover”.   It’s roots are Latin, from the verb “amare” – to love.   In our specialized world, “amateur” usually brings with us a whiff of “ugh”.   But as this evening showed, that isn’t necesarily the case. 

There’s work, and then there’s doing what we love.   When we do it well — and love doing it — life is sweet indeed.


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Filed under Inspiration, Musicians of Note

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