Triumphs & Trials of an Organ Builder

There are several reasons for my writing this book.

First, I want to completely answer those who have often asked me, "How on earth did you get into the organ business?"

Second, there is so much "fabricated or improvised" history now being spread throughout the organ industry that there is a desperate need for some sober truth. Although I admit to having been reticent in the past some might even say monastically discreet now want to speak out loudly and clearly. Because I have been blessed with 50 years of influencing the "recent" history of organ building, I have much to say about the organ industry based on firsthand knowledge. Indeed, if I could say everything I wanted to say, it would fill several books. Yet, I don't want to meander. Therefore, I have made every effort to speak effectively in order to provide the reader with useful, meticulously-researched, accurate information about some recent history of the organ industry from my unique vantage point.

Third, my years as an American businessman exposed me to problems typical of the problems being faced by other businessmen today. I feel that sharing my experience in dealing with these problems may help those facing similar problems.

And lastly, for the broader audience, I believe the book may also appeal to those who simply want to extend their knowledge into the mysterious world of organ building. However, don't expect to find long, detailed, highly-technical dissertations about how organs work. That is not the purpose of the book. The book is aimed mainly at the human interest side of the story; I hope it will be easily read, easily understood, as well as entertaining.

The beginning chapters of the book are organized chronologically while later chapters are more topical. The chapters may be thought of as a collection of essays each one substantially independent of the others in subject matter and style. Although it would be best to read the chapters sequentially, feel free to jump around.

I have made every effort to distinguish between what is fact and what is my opinion. It is important to me that you, the reader, know that when I portray something as fact in this book, it is based on solid supportive evidence. When I make an assertion based on my own perceptions, I will indicate it as such, and, no matter how strongly I believe in the truth of my assertions, I would suggest that you draw your own conclusions.

This book is about the organ industry in general and Allen Organ Company in particular. The industry's total, worldwide sales at the producer's level are less than $200 million a year. Picture a company in this industry with facilities for producing not only fine woodwork but also high-tech electronic systems. A company whose products are musical instruments. This is Allen Organ Company. The company whose organ sounded the first note played before an audience at the opening of Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center in 1962.

Allen's products are found in 50,000 churches in the U.S.A. and around the world. The Allen Organ has been called "fantastic" by Seiji Ozawa and referred to as "magnifique" by Herbert von Karajan. However, the implicit endorsement of Allen's products by satisfied customers has been bitterly attacked by a relatively small group of pipe organ "purists" who not only perceive each Allen installation as a personal threat (for reasons that are not quite clear) but also have used various means, both fair and foul, to try to stifle Allen's sales.

Imagine an industry whose products are only vaguely understood by most people who purchase them. People who often depend on local "experts" to "guide" them in making the most critical decisions. Picture a band of these "experts," some tightly organized into a closed society seemingly bulwarked against progress in the art of building the very product about which they profess their expertise.

Picture an industry with a most savage, competitive ambience and a Company forced into continuous litigations in attempts to protect its turf. Dear reader, enter the arcane world of organs. Jerome Markowitz, President of Allen Organ Company, will guide you.