Thomas Weisflog came to the University of Chicago in 1969 as a graduate student in chemistry, began taking organ lessons with then University organist Edward Mondello, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Appointed as University organist at the University of Chicago in 2000, Thomas Weisflog directed the historic restoration (2006–08) of Rockefeller Chapel’s massive E.M. Skinner organ. He was instrumental too in the recent installation of the Reneker organ in Bond Chapel. He also serves as organist and artist in residence with Chicago’s William Ferris Chorale and as organist at Temple KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park.
Weisflog studied piano with Gavin Williamson, and organ with Edward Mondello and then with Norman Peterson at the Eastman School of Music. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony Chorus, and the Chicago Chorale, and has performed numerous recitals throughout North America and Europe. His recordings appear on the Meridian, New World, and Vox labels.
We have six organ students, who take weekly lessons with Phillip Kloeckner, associate for organ studies and staff lecturer in the Music Department. Kloeckner has worked extensively in Latin America, and published the first study of Peru’s 19th century organs, including three previously little known Cavaillé-Coll instruments. His textbook, Functional Hearing: A Contextual Method for Ear Training, written with Arthur Gottschalk, first appeared in 1997. As a performer, he is particularly interested in the art of improvisation, and his CD Exotic Variations was released in 2013.
The Rockefeller Organ Studio
Rockefeller Chapel’s organ studio program offers the opportunity to students (enrolled full time in degree-granting programs at the University of Chicago) to learn to play the organ and to develop a lifelong love for the instrument and its repertoire. Six students receive weekly lessons during the ten weeks of the autumn, winter, and spring quarters, and they are invited to perform publicly on the E.M. Skinner and Reneker Memorial organs on a quarterly basis. They are also offered an organ seminar every two weeks during the autumn, winter, and spring quarters, in which they learn together about organ construction and design, organ literature, and performance practice, and in which they have the opportunity to play for each other music which they are preparing for public performance.
Lessons are taught on the Mintel practice organ in the Rockefeller organ studio or on the E.M. Skinner or Reneker organs as available. Students have unlimited access during building hours to the Mintel organ; and when notes are mastered, they are given access to the Skinner and Reneker organs in preparation for performance opportunities (with the approval of the Dean). Advanced students may be given regular practice hours on the Skinner and Reneker organs, up to five hours per week, availability permitting. They are offered additional practice hours whenever possible in the days leading up to a public performance.
Admission to the studio program is competitive, with auditions (on piano or organ) held at the beginning of each academic year. To remain in the program, students are expected to make satisfactory progress, practicing five or more hours per week, and performing publicly at least one piece of music per quarter; to come fully prepared and ready for their weekly lesson; and to be enthusiastic ambassadors for Chapel programs in general and for organ events in particular. Advanced students are invited to audition for organ scholar roles at Rockefeller Chapel and at churches and synagogues in the city.
Similar programs are offered to students in the Rockefeller carillon and choral studios.