Organ Music and In-school Curricula

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Ray Cornils 12 Highlights from his work in Maine

Organ Music and In-school Curricula

For the past 27 years, Municipal Organist Ray Cornils brought the magic of organ music into classrooms throughout Southern Maine with a variety of educational programs. “In the first 10 years or so of my tenure as Municipal Organist, the board and I had pondered how we could educate the next generation about the wonder of the pipe organ and its music. In the late 1990’s I was in contact with the Seattle Chapter of the American Guild of Organists who had developed in-school curricula about the pipe organ. In 2002 the FOKO Education Committee and I started a pilot program, loosely based on the Seattle Pipeworks curricula at the Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham.”

Since the creation and implementation of the pilot program for in-school curricula, the program has come to host several multifaceted events to increase understanding of the pipe organ, not just in terms of music, but also for science, art, math, language, writing, and social studies. Though some might think the pipe organ to be from another time, Mr. Cornils and other educators’ multi-curricular approach to the instrument proves its timelessness.

Some of the programs Mr. Cornils has run in collaboration with the FOKO Education Committee include:

  • Kotzschmar 4 Kids, an activity-based grade-school program that familiarizes students with the pipe organ and now in its tenth year of operation
  • Bach & Messiaen, a program developed to educate young people about the organ works of Bach and Messiaen that is Maine State Learning Standards-compliant
  • Kotzsch-O-Rama, an immersive program that utilizes stations to feature multi-curricular approaches to the music of Bach or Messiaen.

Important to all of these programs is the central element known as “Kotzschmar Jr.” or “KJ.” Kotzschmar Jr. is a model of its larger namesake, the Kotzschmar Organ, that was commissioned specifically for educational purposes. The portable demonstration organ was constructed with exposed pipes and Plexiglass panels so that students can view the inner workings of the organ and witness how sound is produced.

Over the course of his work as Municipal Organist, Mr. Cornils has enjoyed his work educating youth about the pipe organ. “It has been a real privilege to work with students as their lives are enriched and their horizons are broadened in their classrooms and concert halls,” he said.