Pipe organists and enthusiasts stay connected to share their passion

Did you know Winston-Salem has a higher-than-usual concentration of organists and pipe organ music supporters? We wanted to learn why — so we asked two experts.

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The Zimmer pipe organ at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church is located in the back gallery.

Photo by WStoday

“I would say in Winston-Salem you’re probably never more than 50 to 100 feet away from an organist — whether you know it or not.”

Dreama Lovette is one of many organists you might encounter in Winston-Salem. She’s played several of the instruments inside church sanctuaries, at Old Salem, Bethabara Park — and even inside Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. She says you don’t have to travel far to hear the unmistakable sounds of a pipe organ.

“There are so many in Winston-Salem, it’s like a treasure trove,” Lovette said.

The number of pipe organs in the city is closely connected to the Moravians who settled in Salem in the 18th century. Their use of music as an expression of faith led them to install the first organ in 1772. Home Moravian Church has had six pipe organs over its 252-year history.

WStoday_St Leo Church Organ

All pipe organs have three main components: keys, wind, and pipes.

Photo by WStoday

Tim Olsen, Organ Department Chair at UNC School of the Arts, says music education is likely why there continue to be so many musicians able to play the magnificent instruments.

“Before School of the Arts was founded in the 1960s, Salem College was the music school in the area,” Olsen said. “So, throughout the years there have been a lot of organ students, some that were performance majors who went on to play professionally in churches or even go on and teach — and there were a lot who took it for fun or as enjoyment or to learn about the instrument. So there’s a lot of supporters of the organ around, as well.”

Local organists and enthusiasts stay connected through concerts and a local guild chapter. The upcoming Salem Bach Festival on Friday, Sept. 17 through Sunday, Sept. 19 is also a chance for the public to hear organ music for free.