Youth pipe organ fundraisers Peter Scheessele and Simon Scheessele are it again.
When we last checked in with the Scheessele brothers in the summer of 2014, they were selling lemonade, brownies and ice cream sandwiches from a stand in front of their northwest Corvallis home. The goal: To help with the fundraising campaign to restore the Whitespire organ in Albany. Peter was 6 and Simon was 4.
This time, the Scheesseles are after bigger fish. Now 8 and 6, respectively, the boys are working on raising $15,000 to create two pipe organ kits. The all-wooden kits are designed for education and outreach — to be put together, played, and dissembled by young people ... such as Peter and Simon.
The boys are within $1,000 of their fundraising goal and the kits, which were developed by a Dutch nonprofit, already are in Eugene being constructed.
On Tuesday, the Gazette-Times found the boys inside the sanctuary at the First United Methodist Church. Peter was playing the “Pink Panther” theme on the church’s Noack organ at concert hall volume despite still not being able to reach the pedals.
Simon, meanwhile, was scurrying around the chancel pretending he was the Pink Panther.
The two agreed, kind of, to be interviewed about their latest fundraising project. They started with another lemonade stand, mixing in frozen lemonade popsicles for variety’s sake. They also participated in some e-busking.
“I played a piece on the pipe organ behind us, and we put it online with a link to PayPal,” Peter explained.
The piece was the Darth Vader theme from “Star Wars.” Simon pulled out all the stops on the organ.
“It made it louder,” Simon said.
But the big money came from grants as the boys’ project got the attention of American Guild of Organists chapters. New York got the ball rolling with a $5,000 grant, San Francisco added $3,000 and Seattle chipped in with $2,000.
The Scheessele family has started a nonprofit called OrgelkidsUSA that will handle the kits when they are ready. The two kits under construction in Eugene are the third and fourth in the world.
The first two were built in the Netherlands by a group called Orgelkids, which means “organs for children” in Dutch.
“We wanted to keep the connections, to pay homage to where the idea came from,” said Erin Scheessele, the boys’ mother.
Erin said the kits could be a perfect educational tool, particularly given the current interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“The kits can go into schools not just via the music program,” Erin said. “There is physics, woodworking and math.”
The interview broke up as Craig Hanson, organist for the First United Methodist Church, arrived to make some adjustments to the pedalboard of the Noack, a “tracker” or mechanical pipe organ that the church installed in 1980. Peter and Simon immediately volunteer to assist.
Hanson has been giving Peter organ lessons for four years.
“He’s my star student,” Hanson said. “He’s truly interested in playing the organ. Other students are sometime motivated by parental pressure.”
Hanson said that Peter’s decision to start with the organ is unusual, because many young musicians master the piano first and then move on to the organ.
Simon, meanwhile, has been learning to play the piano. He also wants to play the cello.
“It sounds good,” Simon said.