Studio Visit appears in The News-Gazette. Here, a visit with artist Dave Schroeder, a musician and teacher who also directs the Danville Municipal Band, conducts the Vermilion Festival Chorus and is a member of the Danville Symphony Orchestra. He also occasionally plays the Wurlitzer at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign.
Q: You played the Wurlitzer at the recent Virginia Theatre open house. How did that go?
A: I started playing at 2 p.m., and it was supposed to be over at 5, and at 6 I was still playing and answering questions.
Q: Will you be the house organist there?
A: Steve (Bentz, Virginia director) and I have had dialogue about that, and I know he was very happy with what I did. I know they're looking for opportunities for me to provide pre-show music. If groups come in and they want to hear the organ, I would be happy to go over and play it for them.
Q: How long have you played organ?
A: I went to school here at Trinity Lutheran (in Danville), and when I was in fourth grade I started teaching myself the piano. My mother (Sally Jo) played organ and piano, and I listened to her every day after dinner. I basically taught myself organ too. I got proficient enough I would play at church services now and then and then I started formal studies in eighth grade with Miss Helen Wolff, who was organist at St. James United Methodist Church in Danville.
I started college at Eastern Illinois University, where I studied organ, and transferred to the University of Illinois, graduating in 1984 with a degree in instrumental and vocal music education.
In the meantime, while I was in college, I became Miss Wolff's successor at St. James and played there for 16 years. I left to come to Trinity Lutheran, my home church. On June 1, I'll be starting my 18th year here.
Q: Did you start teaching after you graduated from the University of Illinois?
A: Yes. My first teaching job was at Jamaica High School. I've also taught at Catlin and at Danville High School. I'm just completing my fifth year at Bismarck-Henning.
Q: Are you involved in any other music activities?
A: I was organist and accompanist for the Vermilion Festival Chorus. I'm now the conductor of that group. I direct the Danville Municipal Band, and I'm a member of the Danville Symphony Orchestra.
Q: What do you play in the orchestra?
A: Piano, keyboard and percussion.
Q: Did you know Warren York?
A: It was during my time at St. James that I got to know Warren York. He'd come over for different programs at St. James. I've always enjoyed the theater organ — I play an electric version of it that I have at home, but I had never played a real pipe organ.
Warren invited me to come over to the Virginia and give the Wurlitzer a try. It was a tremendous gift (from Jill Knappenberger of Champaign) that refurbished that organ. I think it's better now than when Wurlitzer originally put it into the building. It's much more versatile.
Q: What kind of organ do you play at Trinity?
A: It's an Allen Renaissance digital. All the stops are digital samples. It's the equivalent of 100 ranks, which physically could never fit into this room. It basically replaces the organ that my great-grandfather — he was organist and choir director here — oversaw the purchase and installation of. I've overseen the addition of this new instrument, which will take the church into the future.
Q: Do you play organ at restaurants or bars?
A: I haven't done anything like that, though I'll occasionally sub for Tom Kirkpatrick at the Possum Trot. That's on piano. I just played for the 150th anniversary of this church, and I'll play another concert at 7 p.m. Monday at St. James.
Editor's note: Schroeder's program, "Bach, Broadway and All That Jazz" at St. James, 504 N. Vermilion St., Danville, is free and open to the public. It will feature organ music, tunes from Schroeder's musical-theater friends and a Bismarck-Henning High jazz combo.