Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ Installation Complete

Posted on 6/23/2014 2:38:01 PM

The IUP Department of Music is pleased to announce the installation of the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ, leased to Indiana University of Pennsylvania by the American Guild of Organists.

On May 12, the installation process began for the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ in the large instrumental rehearsal room in Cogswell Hall. After being carefully stored in a facility in Lancaster County, the reconstruction and reassembling of parts began in early 2014. The IUP installation process spanned over a month of work, which was completed by the original organ builder, Raymond J. Brunner of Raymond J. Brunner and Co., Silver Spring, Pa.

Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial OrganCogswell Hall is the new home of this two-manual (two keyboards), mechanical action organ which comes to the university via a special, renewable lease from the American Guild of Organists. The pipe organ is a bequest to the Guild from its original owners, Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee, formerly of Bucks County, Pa. It is valued at $400,000. The organ casework is gilded in 22-karat gold leaf, inspired by the early Pennsylvania German organist David Tannenberg (1728–1804). Tannenberg was the most famous apprentice of Johann Gottlob Clemm, who established the rich, early 18th-century Pennsylvania organ building tradition.

Throughout the course of the organ’s installation, IUP students, faculty, staff, alumni, and area church organists volunteered to assist Mr. Brunner in the on-site work. From carrying wind chests (this holds the pipes in a neat row) to holding over 650 pipes in place, the work of many hands contributed to the finished product.

Volunteers were also asked to hold each key and pedal note while the builder tuned each pipe. This tuning process took over 10 hours to complete. The final stages of the installation include allowing the pipes to settle over the course of the next few months, so that each pipe can acclimate to the ambient temperature of the hall. On June 19, the Lester D. Yankee and Ronald G. Yankee Memorial Organ was heard for the first time in the hall. The organ is a distinguished addition to the beautiful 93 Steinway pianos, one small, portable Martin Ott Organ (without a pedal board), and a two-manual Martin Harpsichord.

It was over four years ago that the Guild announced a request for competitive proposals to house the organ, and IUP’s proposal, written and submitted by IUP Assistant Professor of Organ Christine Clewell, was selected. The acoustical properties of the large rehearsal room provide an ideal setting for teaching and performing, according to Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

“We are thrilled with the great honor that the American Guild of Organists has bestowed upon the department and IUP, and I can guarantee you that its honor and trust will be fully matched by the care and the respect with which this marvelous instrument will be treated,” Hood said. “I am extremely grateful for Dr. Clewell’s perseverance, the quality of the winning proposal, and the clear quality that she has maintained in our organ studio.”

According to the AGO Executive Director James Thomashower, the Guild selected IUP because of its “thoroughly documented and passionate desire to have this instrument on campus and for its commitment to use the organ regularly for teaching and performance purposes exactly as Messrs. Pogorzelski and Yankee desired.” The proposal, he said, “made it abundantly clear to us that IUP’s organ students, faculty, and administration would treasure the opportunity to have this elegant organ at the school, and that it would be of immediate and lasting benefit not only to the academic community, but to the larger community around Indiana.

In addition to funding the move and installation of the pipe organ, the AGO will be responsible for its ongoing maintenance, tuning, and repairs. It will also establish the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Annual Competition, a composition competition to encourage the creation of new music specifically for this instrument. Each year, the winning composition will be given its world premier performance in a formal recital at IUP by an internationally recognized organist.

Since 1881, at what was then Indiana Normal School, the organ program has relied on the benevolence of local churches to provide practice, teaching, and performance venues for IUP organ students. The arrival of the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ will not change that valued partnership, Clewell said, but will build on the critical message that the organ and its great literature hold a viable, artistic voice both in and outside of the church, which can bring meaning to all kinds of audiences of all ages, beyond the widely recognized liturgical function of the organ.

The organ will serve as IUP’s premier performance instrument and will be used for solo organ performances as well as collaborative ensemble music written for brass, percussion, strings, voice, woodwinds, keyboard concerti, and choral accompaniment. Music students in all applied performance areas will benefit from having a high-quality organ available for accompanying both student and faculty recitals on campus.

“IUP will embrace a policy of hospitality with the instrument, using it as a tool for building community relations, where we will continue to encourage the study of organ and its accessible literature,” Clewell said, while still addressing the shortage of organists in the rural, western Pennsylvania region and elsewhere throughout the USA. Clewell envisions the new organ resulting in more frequent, higher quality organ performances, which should attract more students to study organ at all collegiate levels who wish to perform both in and outside of the church

“The new acquisition will materially raise the profile and expand the reputation of the IUP organ program and will serve as a promotional vehicle for both prospective and presently enrolled organ students.”

Inaugural festivities will be presented by IUP and the Carol Teti Memorial Organ Scholarship Committee for the Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ with three distinct events to which the general public is invited to attend. Hosted by the Teti Committee, on Tuesday, July 15, several IUP alumni and students will perform in a sneak preview of the instrument. This informal but significant musical program begins at 12:00 p.m. Organ music will include solo and accompaniment literature for trumpet and voice.

On Saturday, September 20, the Committee will kick off an inaugural weekend with a master class taught by internationally renowned artist and teacher Alan Morrison, head of the Organ departments of both the Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College of Rider University. He is also college organist at Ursinus College. The class is from 10:00 a.m. to noon.

On Sunday, September 21, the College of Fine Arts will present Morrison in concert. The performance begins at 4:00 p.m. All are cordially invited to attend a reception immediately following Sunday’s concert. Admission is free to attend or participate in the class. Tickets are required to attend the concert. For further information, please contact the Department of Music at (724) 357-2390, or contact Clewell at

AGO LogoThe American Guild of Organists is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 18,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 each month. 

Department of Music