A combination of rarity, reputation, and pure musical merit means a Skinner Organ is a prestige piece. These are the things upon which reputations are built, and why they are still sought eighty years later. Harvard University recently embarked on the installation of a vintage Skinner as part of a three million dollar organ project. The vast expense of a pipe organ, especially a rare instrument such as an E.M. Skinner, means few private institutions let alone a public school would ever consider one today… but they are a worthwhile investment.
At one time, no public secondary school was considered complete without a pipe organ. Most were factory made commercial models, and public high schools in Newark, Irvington, Kearny and no less than thirty high schools in New York City had pipe organs! Most are long gone, victims of fashion change and the expensive repair they require after years of use. The purpose these organs once served still exists, and even a modest organ would enhance any music education program. Columbia High School was lucky to have been one of the few public schools to have purchased a Skinner organ, though it was the default decision for most prestigious colleges and universities.
Columbia High School has an excellent music program which will no doubt be enhanced through renewed use of this world-class instrument. An organ is a key part of any good symphony, which is why the Cleveland Orchestra invested millions in restoring the E.M. Skinner at Severance Hall recently. An organ is a fine backup for a choral recital, and this organ was design in part for that type of use. The techniques used learning to play the organ are useful for any keyboard instrument, and the organ can be incorporated into many levels of music education. From the Parnassian Society playing musical interludes between the scenes of a radio drama, to a Phantom of the Opera all-school musical, there are numerous ways this organ will enhance existing school programs. The fact that this is an E.M. Skinner organ just brings it to another level.
The usefulness of this organ is not limited to the student body. As part of an outreach to local community groups, numerous synergistic relationships have been explored. We have engaged in interesting conversations with the South Orange Maplewood Adult School, the South Orange Symphony, Montclair State University, and ArtsMaplewood.