With the installation of a grand pipe organ, the Alumni Memorial Building is receiving the last piece of an upgrade since its days of hosting a gymnasium.
Taking over five years to build, organmakers of Richard’s Fowkes & Co. in Ooltewah, Tenn. will be installing and tuning the instrument for a dedication ceremony slated for early January.
“It’s been in the making ... it’s going to be a special organ,” said Roger Stephens, director of the School of Music.
The organ will have a huge impact on the music program, allowing organ students the chance to practice on a full-size instrument instead of using the practice organ currently residing in the Music Building, he said. The University of Tennessee orchestra will also benefit along with recitals played in the Cox Auditorium.
“It means the world to the music program ... seeing it live will be something,” Stephens said. “The organ is certainly visually stunning.”
The Cox family donated $750,000 to help UT make the purchase of the $1 million organ happen. The financial gift will also go toward establishing a fund in the College of Architecture amd Design to recognize outstanding faculty and students and a professorship for various departments throughout UT.
A professor of music and an experienced organist, John Brock, said the new organ gives the music school a place to hold organ concerts — something the school had been lacking before.
Brock will play the organ in the dedication ceremony and has been actively involved with the entire process of acquiring it.
“That’s something I have been waiting for ... organ students will be able to study and play this instrument,” he said.
Brock has been a professor at UT for 39 years and said the transformation of the Alumni Memorial Building has been pretty big and there is a lot of potential with the recent addition of the large organ.
“I think it will have a big impact on the music program. This is the first time we have had a place to put an organ,” Brock said.
The organ will open the door for UT to host a national conference on organ music and bring organ players to the university, he said.
According to Stephens, the organ will play a key part in recruiting undergraduate and graduate students to the music program, making UT one of the few Mid-West and Southern schools to have such an instrument.
“It will put us at the top of the list of students who want to come and play quality instruments,” he said. “There still are a lot of unknowns, but the learning curve is the fun part.”
Over the following months, the organmakers will be inspecting each pipe individually for the right acoustics, Stephens said. The auditorium will remain open as the organmakers work around events in the Cox Auditorium when tuning the 3,000 pipe instrument.
“It’s their signature piece, and they won’t sign off on it until it’s perfect,” he said.
Students interested in seeing the installation and tuning of the organ can check out the Cox Auditorium’s webcam at http://coxorganinstall.utk.edu.