Organ professor makes a big impact in a small department

Playing the pipe organ is uncommon. Studying the pipe organ is even more uncommon. But, CSU Associate Professor, Joel Bacon, who holds a Ph.D. in historical musicology, does both.

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Photo courtesy of music.colostate.edu

Historical musicology is a degree that focuses on the history of music and how it interacts with culture over time.

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Of all the instruments to be invested in, the pipe organ may seem like an odd choice, but Bacon argues that it is an important for people to learn how to play it.

“It’s something that I think is tremendously important, for the organ especially, that we not just have musicians that can play in churches,” Bacon said.

Bacon said there is a real demand for organists.

“I get calls every week from people needing organists,” Bacon said. “I want to see the music of the organ thrive. It gives me great satisfaction to pass on what I love doing.”

Fourth year piano performance major Brynna Ashton agrees that the organ department at CSU is very important and valid despite its small size.

“It’s a pretty strong program,” Ashton said. “It’s not huge, but it’s strong. All the students that are organ students are really good because Dr. Bacon is really good.”

In his studies, Bacon spent a significant portion of his time in Vienna working on a concert diploma, which entails learning everything there is to know about your instrument.

“It’s really important to spend some time in Europe because you get to play organs that Bach played on, and you can’t really do that in northern Colorado,” Bacon said.

Above anything, Bacon preaches expanding your horizons and experiencing many different things the world.

“I would encourage students to have as many different intellectual and cultural experiences as they can,” Bacon said.

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Bacon said this principle strikes a special chord with him and his life

“I was studying math, but I went to an organ recital, and I was just blown away,” Bacon said. “It was so different, so unusual, so beautiful.”

Bacon said if he had not decided to attend the concert he would not have found the thing that he loves doing the most. Because if this, he strongly advises trying new things.

“If you aren’t going to concerts and lectures, if you aren’t reading books outside of your own discipline, if you haven’t been to the art museum here on campus, then you don’t know what you might be missing, and you don’t know how it might enrich your life in ways you didn’t expect,” Bacon said.

Third year organ major Dale Nickell said Bacon pushes his students to discover new things.

“He’s always teaching us not to just disregard a certain composer or time period,” Nickell said. “In all these different genres of music there’s still good music to be found.”

In addition to acting as an inspiration, second year music minor Kieran Simske said Bacon is an effective educator.

“He very specifically tailors his lessons to everyone in the studio, so it gives a really nice feel because there’s very few people in the studio and just everyone has their own specific way that they’re taught,” Simske said.

Although though the organ program is very impressive, Ashton said he will not dismiss a student just because they are not as experienced.

“Even though the program is really strong, he’s really open to beginners learning,” Ashton said.

With all of these qualities, Bacon’s students view his as a mentor in school and life.

“I think of Dr. Bacon a lot like a mentor because he’s really invested in all of us,” Nickell said.

Simske said he is unlike any other professor and is able to make a large impact on a department that is not frequently in the spotlight.

“I think that Dr. Bacon is really a world class musician and he’s just really gracious and dedicated,” Simske said. ““Everything I learned about the pipe organ I learned from Dr. Bacon. I think that CSU is really lucky to have him.”