SOS-0007 November 2022 – Dave Stout – Volunteer of the Year 2022

November 2022 – Dave Stout – Volunteer of the Year 2022
by Gordon W Stanley


After a 22-year career in the US Navy, Dave Stout elected to dedicate his time, talent and treasure to the benefit of the Spreckels Organ Society. Like many a member of the armed services, Dave's career as a Navy Storekeeper (W-3) was curtailed during a major reduction in the size of US active military forces. Later, while working with the County of San Diego, Dave began a search for fulfilling volunteer work.

In 2014, Dave began interning with Andrea Card as a greeter on the Pavilion's East Gate. To this day, Dave says his favorite part of volunteering is talking to the visitors from all over the world. Just this past week, he enjoyed meeting visitors and organ music fans who had traveled from half a world away to Australia.

In addition to eight years of weekly work as a greeter at the Sunday 2-3pm concerts, Dave sets up the greeter and membership tables, signage, and donation boxes. He also arranges and delivers the printed programs every week. Dave serves on the Program, Operations, and Education Outreach Committees, and has been a Trustee for the past two years. When he has extra time, Dave assists the audio and video crew, and makes a point to stay after concerts to count the gate donation proceeds.

The officers and civic organist routinely commend Dave, noting that “he is always there, ready to help in any way he can.” Dave is unassuming and never calls attention to himself, “he is just quietly there, raising his hand to volunteer, asking how he can help.”

Many of the Society volunteers have interesting stories about exposure to classical music at a young age. To this point Dave is no different. In fact, he recently discovered some new detail concerning his music in his family. With some genealogy help from Gary Allard, the Society's Secretary, Dave learned much more about his great grandfather, Charles Silver Knight, who was a musician and pipe organ builder. He was involved in construction of organs at the Music Box in Virginia City, NV and at the Baptist Church in Reno, NV. Dave also has an uncle who played big band trumpet music, and later played and studied with the Peruvian Symphony Orchestra. Dave honors that interest by taking an active role in the Program Committee - searching, and offering serious recommendations of music to the Society's civic organist,

Please join the Trustees and Volunteers of the Spreckels Organ Society in congratulating Dave Stout as the 2022 Volunteer of the Year.


SOS-0006 October 2022 – Give Us Your Time, Treasure and Talent

October 2022 – Give Us Your Time, Treasure and Talent
by Gordon W. Stanley, VP, Spreckels Organ Society

The beginning of this story is far from unique. Spreckels Organ Society was just one of several not-for-profit charitable organizations suffering the lingering effects of the 2020-2021 COVID crisis. It was a challenging time for many. For some, including the Spreckels Organ Society, 2020 was a year of increased giving. Audience attendance, on the other hand, was diminished to zero, or nearly zero, throughout the Park due to concerns of spreading the virus.

At the Spreckels Organ, we ceased all live performances, discontinued backstage tours, and most disappointingly, we were forced to cancel all youth programs previously scheduled by our Educational Outreach Committee.  

If there was a bright note in the madness, then our Pandemic Recording Crew was responsible for that note. A group of ten talented and extremely dedicated volunteers risked their own health by coming to the Pavilion in the middle of the night – long after the San Diego International Airport traffic had retired – to work alongside our Civic Organist and Curator to record a series of tape -delayed performances.  

pandemic crew jpg

VP Gordon Stanley and Trustee Dennis Fox readying the sound equipment

These performances helped to sustain our audience, and served to increase the number of offers we received from fans offering volunteer assistance. For the health of all, we retained our original bubble of volunteers; and due to their efforts, Spreckels Organ Society was able to host seventy-two tape-delayed concerts on YouTube. This enabled us to maintain our audience of nearly 2,000 loyal and frequent followers. 

Like most not-for-profit organizations, the Spreckels Organ Society is slowly finding its way back to normalcy. Donations are down, membership renewals are down, and attendance at the weekly live concerts is lower than pre-pandemic, but steadily growing again.

Today, as Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego's renown Civic Organist, plays live every Sunday, we are in need of volunteers to help in a variety of ways. In fact, the Spreckels Organ Society only recently wrapped up our 34th Annual San Diego International Organ Festival, with performances held weekly throughout the summer. Every Monday featuring a different artist, with organists traveling from as far away as Zurich and Quebec.

The Society has doubled our public relations efforts this year, thanks to the support of both local and regional media outlets. And, because our concerts are held in the outdoor Pavilion, our members, volunteers and guests were able to experience professional live music without fear of illness. 

So, if you have a love of live performance - contemporary and/or classical – and would like to contribute to its continuance, we invite you to consider sharing some of your time, talent and/or treasure to the Spreckels Organ Society.

To learn about all the opportunities available, please visit to find job descriptions for more than thirty positions, including Staging, Greeters, Docents, Stage Hands, Gift Shop Management, Refreshments Coordinator, and more. We also welcome volunteers interested in Board Governance. Volunteer applications may also be completed at our Membership Table – during our weekly Sunday concerts from 2:00-3:00pm.  

Applicants will be interviewed in person, or by phone to discuss areas of interest and make the introduction to Committee Chairpersons. It will be our pleasure to get you started as a volunteer in our wonderful family of dedicated fans of the organ and live music. We hope to hear from you soon.

SOS-0005 August 2022 – Spreckels Organ Society Member and Benefactor Updates

August 2022 – Spreckels Organ Society Member and Benefactor Updates
by Gordon Stanley, VP, Spreckels Organ Society

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is quoted as saying, “the only constant in life is change”, and that certainly describes things here at Spreckels Organ Society. Having shared Spreckels Organ Society Vice President, Gordon Stanley's interview with Copper Magazine here previously, Gordon offered some updates on organization activities, members and our many benefactors.


Gordon Stanley / Recording Updates:  In parts 3 and 4 of the Copper Magazine article, we referenced the addition of new recording equipment acquired thanks to the generosity of members of the Spreckels Organ Society Board of Trustees. In the 12 months since the article was published, we have received all of the Merging Technology – Pyramix equipment, and have embarked on the journey of learning its rather complex operation. Additionally, we have purchased new stands, new cables, and spent an additional $15,000 in DPA microphones and mounts. These upgrades will extend the quality of our recordings, and give us the opportunityto produce immersive audio (5-channel, 7-channel, and Dolby Atmos object-oriented sound) recordings.


Spreckels Organ Society is in the final phases of establishing relationships with two music publishing companies, and these will be announced once the contracts are complete. Needless to say, these agreements will greatly expand the reach of our recordings, on both a national and global basis. Spreckels Organ Society is also examining the idea of ​​offering keepsake live recordings following our special event performances.

Youth Programs:

In the summer of 2022, Spreckels Organ Society renewed our partnership with the American Guild of Organists to award four educational scholarships to up-and-coming student organists. We have expanded our Education Outreach committee to include new members, and a new and energetic committee chair, Elisabeth Jacobson. As a K-8 school teacher, Elisabeth's expertise will help us to ensure that our programs are aligned with state teaching requirements. We plan to test new program content this fall, which will be fine-tuned prior to seeking grant funding. Arts and education grants enable us to expand sharing the gift of live music to students throughout all 42 school districts in San Diego County.

San Diego International Summer Organ Festival:

This year marked our 34th annual Summer Organ Festival. The theme, “A Tribute to Women in Music”, featured women musicians and composers, who have historically experienced second-class status in the ranks of professional musicians. Like other arts organizations who are still suffering the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, this summer's attendance has been somewhat lower than previous years. That said, our audiences have been warm, generous and grateful for the return of live music. They have also been very receptive to this summer's theme. Media and social media coverage has been substantial, with live radio interviews, news articles, and feature stories. This exposure will go a long way towards restoring our Summer 2023 audiences.

Modern Technology:

This summer we hired an office administrator to work alongside our past president and other trustees to update our behind-the-scenes processes. We have migrated to online banking, updated our membership and board software systems, and reorganized our 2nd floor House of Hospitality office - all with the goal of improving office management efficiency. 

Members and donors are already beginning to reap the benefits of these automation updates. Spreckels Organ Society has evolved to a rolling 12-month membership renewal program. Members who join or renew in August may sign up for automatic renewal, or maintain the current manual renewal process, with automatic renewal reminders sent the following August, either way. For most, this will eliminate membership renewal reminders during the holiday rush. The new software makes donation management more seamless for our members, including the automatic distribution of tax documents and acknowledgments. This technology also allows our membership committee to launch smaller, more focused campaigns, which in turn allows our members to focus their giving in the areas they choose to support. 

In addition to the future focused initiatives mentioned in part 3 of the Copper Magazine article, Spreckels Organ Society will be experimenting with new members benefits, special memberships focused on our out-of-state and international donors, and seasonal giving campaigns focused on continuing our drive to fully funded endowments. These endowments will be among the most important activities for Spreckels Organ Society over the next 5-10 years, with the goal of fortifying our future, and ensuring that the vast majority of our day-to-day contributions go directly to fund music programs.

Greatly Expanded Volunteer Opportunities:

In an effort to provide clear job expectations for our essential and valued volunteer members, Spreckels Organ Society trustees have committed several months to the completion of clear and comprehensive officer, chair, volunteer and committee job descriptions for more than 30 specific areas. There has never been a better time for dedicated individuals who wish to contribute their treasure, time, and talent to join us. Volunteer opportunities will soon be published here, on our website, where interested individuals can review and apply. All applications will be vetted by volunteer members of the personnel committee. Qualified applicants will be contacted by the appropriate committee chairs, with invitations to join our ranks. New volunteers participate in a Spreckels Organ Society Volunteer orientation, are invited to join as supporting members, are eligible to participate in exclusive volunteer/society member events, and are welcome to join other committees, as well as stand for election as an officer involved in the governance of the society.

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SOS-0004 August 2022 – Part 4 – Organ Societies / Covid / Spreckels Organ Future COPPER MAGAZINE / Frank Doris / Issues 154 and 155

August 2022 – Part 4 – Organ Societies / Covid / Spreckels Organ Future
COPPER MAGAZINE / Frank Doris / Issues 154 and 155

Earlier this year, our own Gordon Stanley, Vice President for Spreckels Organ Society , had an opportunity to sit down with Frank Doris , Editor of Copper Magazine , to discuss the Spreckels Organ. The following text is taken directly from Mr. Doris's two-part January 2022 Copper Magazine series: The Spreckels Organ : A Historic Musical Treasure .


“Frank Dorris:  In a previous conversation you had mentioned that there are a number of international organ societies and organizations. Can you tell us what some of them are?

GS:  The one I know the most is the American Guild of Organists,  which has chapters in almost every major US city. This past year they held a virtual convention with concerts recorded at some of the top organs in the country. Raúl was the featured organist of the convention and played the Spreckels Organ . I had the honor of producing Raúl's recording and that of Jaebon Hwang, the organist at San Diego's First United Methodist Church. {She] played the Sanctuary Pipe Organ, built by Lyle Blackinton, the largest in San Diego with 6,042 pipes.

Another important organization is the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America,  a group that focuses on supporting the art and upcoming generations of builders. There's the American Organ Academy , and the American Theater Organ Society  has an active chapter in San Diego, with their own Wurlitzer that they share with a church in the area.

The Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation maintains the Wonder Morton organ in the Balboa Theater in downtown San Diego.

FD:  How has COVID-19 affected your operations?

GS:  We were exceptionally lucky to have seen COVID coming. We started live premiere concerts the week before the city shut down Balboa Park by assembling a small group of volunteers and maintaining our own social bubble. We had to shut down the Society's International Organ Festival, normally held each summer. But we were able to relaunch this program on a limited scale last fall. And we had to stop the fifth-grade student program and contest we hold with the American Guild of Organists [to showcase] rising stars. I miss the student programs the most and am excited about the possibilities of reinventing the programs in 2022.

Our loyal members stayed with us and actually increased their giving by 30 percent. The past 12 months have been amazing in terms of large gifts, bequests, and a matching challenge grant that will allow us to do much more outreach in the near future.

I like to think of Spreckels as the seed that planted the desire for culture and live music in San Diego, for in this past year, the Rady Shell  was completed, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra pops program received an $85 million enhancement, and the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center  was launched, a $42 million new live music venue in La Jolla focused on chamber and small-format classical music. Additionally, the symphony, opera, and theater are all in strong positions, and the pop, rock, jazz and blues scenes are making slow but creative comebacks. So, as you can see, I feel that COVID, while it has been temporarily devastating, has also seeded an environment of creativity and steadfastness where those of us who love live music refuse to be held back.


The crowd at a concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion

FD:  What do you foresee happening in the future?

GS:  This is my favorite question. Throughout San Diego's history, we have been blessed by men and women of immense foresight. People like John D. Spreckels, Malin Burnham, Bob Beyster, William Kettner, Alonzo Horton, Audrey Geisel, Joan Kroc, Irwin Jacobs, Jonas Salk, Ernest Rady, and Conrad Prebys. These people and others succeeded because their vision for the city extended decades beyond the latest quarterly earnings, and after earning their fortunes, they gifted it back to the citizens in ways that improved our lives through innovations in medicine, air transportation, electronics and biomedical science . Additionally, they made space for education and the arts, helping start and fund the major cultural institutions that define a world-class city.

Today the city is beginning to emerge from the COVID pandemic. We have seen similar events with the Spanish flu in 1918 and the polio outbreaks in the 1950s. In each case we survived [and became] a little wiser. This time we are truly experiencing the impact of a planet so well-connected that national borders no longer offer protection. I foresee that we will continue to stumble and hopefully learn some valuable lessons so that next time, and there will be a next time, we are better prepared to cooperate and help one another. Two bright spots I see are the wondrous new medical opportunities that will likely arise from [what we've learned], and the absolutely creative brilliance I have seen in the entertainment and music industries,

I hope when we look back five to 10 years from now, we can say [that] while we stumbled quite dramatically in the beginning, in the end, our reaction to and growth as a species that resulted from [our dealing with] the pandemic it was quite remarkable.

Regarding the Spreckels Organ and the Society, I see bright days ahead. Here are just a few of the ideas being discussed among the trustees, with an eye toward the second hundred years of the Spreckels Organ.

  • An expanded audience and Society membership, and more volunteers who are energized and looking forward to helping with outreach projects.
  • A multi-year endowment campaign to set aside funds for the full and permanent protection of professional positions, the maintenance of the body, and the continued expansion of programs.
  • An enhanced collaboration with the Balboa Park leadership and other cultural organizations whereby we offer more collaborative performances and events.
  • An expanded giving program that makes it easier for donors to direct funds and requests to specific projects.
  • An expanded schedule of performances, a time when we have the resources to manage both live and high-quality pre-recorded concerts, to aid fans around the world and those unable to physically attend.
  • A greatly expanded series of educational programs for young people and rising stars. This may include an academy where the best and brightest are invited for intense workshops on organ performance, design, and building.
  • A transition from CDs and DVD media to downloadable high-resolution music in DSD and PCM formats.

Two years ago, before the pandemic [hit], up-and-coming members and officers of the Society's Board of Trustees met for a solid day of brainstorming and planning. Shortly, we expect to repeat this event and put steps in place to further expand our reach and the way we address our mission to preserve, protect and promote the Spreckels Organ and all it means, in terms of continuing to offer quality live music to the citizens of San Diego and the world at no charge.

Wide angle view of the Spreckels Organ.

FD:  Is there anything else you'd like to tell us that would be of interest?

GS: If you ever have a chance to closely study an organist in the midst of a performance, you will see a true athlete in both the mental and physical sense of the word. To play the more complex pieces, the organist must have the ability to disconnect [the] normal brain activity that synchronizes the hands and feet. This is the ultimate form of walking and chewing gum at the same time! Each foot plays bass notes in different rhythms and the two hands go off on their own, tickling the keys of two or more keyboards, again in different rhythms. And then, in between notes, the organist adjusts stops to change instrumentation and on occasion turns the pages of the music. On complex performances, the organist often has an assistant to turn pages and adjust stops. Practicing the necessary 5 to 6 hours a day to stay in performance shape takes a toll on the organist's physique, straining the back, core muscles, wrist, and tendons up and down the arm and in the ankles. Most organists I know have a strict physical conditioning program with swimming, yoga, stretching and so on to prevent permanent damage to their bodies, and the top performing organists train [in a manner] similar to an Olympic athlete.

I would like to close by noting that the Spreckels Organ has been in continuous use for 107 years, and the Society came into being in 1988 when the very existence of the organ was threatened. John D. Spreckels and his brother di lui were true visionaries when they established the gift of offering live music at no charge to the citizens of San Diego and the world. Music truly is a universal language that can help heal the world, but we have to start with young people, get them involved, and let them see the power of good live music. Without these seeds, all the other cultural events that charge admission will wither because there will be no audiences. I would like to dedicate this article to the 1,000-plus Society members from all over the country and world, the trustees, and the officers and the professional staff that make this gift keep giving.”

President Herbert Hoover speaks at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in 1935.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Jean Samuels, 2019 – 2021 Society president; Dale Sorenson, curator; Mitch Beauchamp, trustee; and Robert E. Lang, photographer, who were instrumental in making this article and interview happen.

Color photos courtesy of Robert E. Lang, USN (Ret.), Spreckels Organ Society, and Gordon Stanley. Black and white photo courtesy of the San Diego History Center.

Continued in part 5.