An Accidental Organ Scholar

August 01, 2003 | Bradley Nelson

If you ask Lindsey Henriksen how she became interested in studying the organ, she can’t help but chuckle. “That was not at all what I was planning to do,” she says. “I was pre-med!”

Henriksen, a 2003 graduate of Walla Walla College (WWC), grew up in Eugene, Ore. Although she started taking piano lessons when she was six years old and was in both band and choir in academy, she didn’t really consider the possibility of studying music in college.

“I like school,” thought Henriksen, “I like to study, so that means I have to be a doctor, right?”

Visiting WWC during College Days, she met some of the music professors and decided that she would still continue with piano lessons. Kraig Scott, professor of music and noted organist, suggested on several occasions that Henriksen consider playing the organ and even convinced her to start taking lessons.

“At one point,” says Henriksen, “I was at Dr. Scott’s house, and he introduced me to someone and said, ‘She doesn’t know it yet, but she will be an organ major.’”

She laughed at the time, but by her junior year, Henriksen had declared her major to be the organ.

“If I hadn’t met Dr. Scott, I would not be an organ major,” says Henriksen. “But there are a lot of factors that helped me make the decision. On the organ, force is completely unnecessary and inefficient. The approach to it has to be one of a humbled nature. Also, most organs are in churches, so much of the literature that has been written for the organ is sacred. When you’re practicing in a church two or three hours a day, you know it’s a sacred place, and it has an effect on you.”

Last spring Henriksen applied to five graduate schools around the country and was offered a full-tuition scholarship at Yale University, where she will pursue a master of music in organ performance and literature through the university’s Institute of Sacred Music. She hopes to eventually get a doctorate in musicology and teach at the college level.