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April 8, 2005
Vol. V, No. 8

"For Shame"
I wanted to pass along the following note that I sent to The American Organist magazine this evening:

To TAO magazine:

Shame on you for publishing the letter from Mr. Fred Astmann in your Letters column of April 2005. While Mr. Astmann's letter may represent his opinion, it certainly doesn't represent an informed opinion and you do a great disservice to your readers in printing a letter containing such unfounded generalities and exaggerations.

To begin, I'd like to address Mr. Astmann's sentence: "...for probably 95% of them [churches] coming up with a million dollars, or even a paltry $100,000 is simply impossible."

1. "...probably 95%" may sound like an impressive statistic but it does more harm than good to pull numbers out of thin air. 95% of churches don't need an organ that costs one million dollars so the fact that they can't raise that amount of money is rather meaningless.

2. $100,000 is not a "paltry" amount of money and saying that it is amounts to a subtle form of manipulation. First, you make people who don't have $100,000 feel badly because they have even less of what has been labeled a small amount. Then, you make them feel better by telling them that it is OK to spend whatever amount they do have on a digital organ because they can't afford a pipe organ anyway.

3. How was $100,000 determined to be the low end of the price range for a pipe organ? There are plenty of pipe organs available for a fraction of that amount. In fact, there's a pipe organ for every size budget and every size worship space.

4. The sentence suggests that a majority of churches can't raise enough to buy a pipe organ. I beg to differ. Every day, local newspapers all over the U.S. contain stories about churches that want pipe organs so badly that they do whatever it takes to raise the necessary funds. I'm talking bake sales, craft fairs, wine tastings and rummage sales. Church communities can do amazing things when they are inspired.

Finally, I'd like to address Mr. Astmann's sentence: "I believe it is better stewardship on the part of the industry not to try to force unrealistic cost purchases onto congregations when a $30,000 or $50,000 digital organ can do the job."

If getting the job done is the ultimate consideration then why suggest a digital organ in the $30,000-$50,000 range? Why not suggest a $100 electronic keyboard. That will not only get the job done but really save a heap of money, too.

It is unfortunate that you chose to print Mr. Astmann's letter as it simply perpetuates popular misconceptions about purchasing a pipe organ. One assumes that the prominent placement given this letter was driven by a desire to generate controversy and thereby interest in TAO. However, in these cynical times, one looks at the full-page ads in TAO and is left to wonder.

Dan Long
New York, N.Y.

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Have a great week!

Dan Long

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