Over the course of the last ten years, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) has constructed a fully-fledged education program featuring Maine’s “King of Instruments”—the Kotzschmar Organ. This June, they will be presenting their program at the American Guild of Organists’ national convention in Boston. The biennial convention will run from June 23–27 and will feature the diverse accomplishments of many of the most talented organists in the country.
The Kotzschmar Organ is famous for its vibrant, complex sound, for being the heart of hundreds of masterful performances, and for the rich history stored within each element of its intricate structure. However, it is less widely known that the Kotzschmar Organ is a tremendous conduit for education. From preschool and kindergarten programs to high school level physics demonstrations, FOKO has developed a broadly scoped, multidisciplinary program that transcends traditional approaches to a wide variety of subjects. During the conference, presenters from FOKO, including Portland’s own municipal organist and this year’s convention coordinator Ray Cornils, will demonstrate the power of the Kotzschmar Organ to captivate and educate both audiences and classrooms.
Events like the Kotzsch-O-Rama and Kotzschmar 4 Kids rely in part on the use of “Kotzschmar, Jr.”—a portable pipe organ that was specially constructed with exposed pipes and Plexiglas panels so that students are able to see the inner workings of the organ. By exploring the music of composers like Johann Sebastian Bach and Olivier Messiaen, students are engaged in understanding music through an array of contexts, supporting learning standards in mathematics, science, art, technology, history, and more. Over the past decade, FOKO has delivered this educational experience to Maine schools like Breakwater School, Portland; Hartford-Sumner Elementary School, Sumner; Loranger Middle School, Old Orchard Beach; George E. Jack School, Standish; and schools in North Conway, NH. This May, Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham, which piloted the program, celebrated its 10th year of collaboration with Ray Cornils and FOKO with an assembly in which every one of their 600 students had participated in the programs.
The Kotzschmar Organ was a gift to the City of Portland by publishing magnate Cyrus Curtis. It is named in memory of Hermann Kotzschmar, a German musician, who lived in Portland from 1849 until his death in 1908. He is remembered for leading the city in its musical awakening and development. Hermann Kotzschmar’s commitment to education is a responsibility that the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ is currently striving to uphold. For more information about FOKO’s educational programs or the AGO convention, please visit www.foko.org or www.agoboston2014.org.