As FOKO celebrates its 35th year, I reflect on the time that I have spent in Maine and with this organization. My first Kotzschmar experience was John Scott’s performance on a blustery winter evening in 2003. I had had the privilege of working with John while I was employed by VocalEssence and singing with the Ensemble Singers in Minneapolis, under the direction of Philip Brunelle. There were over 700 people in the audience and I was astounded by the support and caring of this instrument — not to mention that I was blown away by its grandeur and beauty. Peter and Pam Plumb hosted a reception after the concert where I met Ray and board members.

Janice Parkinson-Tucker and Roy Ingraham approached me to discuss FOKO. I was nominated to the Board of Directors and that was my first charge with the organization. I began by serving on the education and development committees and saw the need for some organizational skill sets that I had used in previous positions. Russ Burleigh was doing a terrific job as Executive Director, but needed some help in certain areas as he was also running his printing business full-time at the same time he was doing several other part-time jobs in the music community. The second year, I was hired as Associate Director to work with Russ and support the organization. Two years later I became the Executive Director, a post I’ve held for ten years.

And what a 10 years it has been!

We successfully completed two capital campaigns; commissioned Kotzschmar Junior; grew the education program; developed the curriculum; started the Meet the King of Instruments youth concerts; began a docent training program; expanded our tours of the organ to include The Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, tour guides, corporate sponsors, college and university alumni groups, and contemporary groups of other organizations such as the Portland Museum of Art; collaborated with other arts organizations on a regular basis to present concerts; and began using live video projection on stage so people could view organists’ every move, revealing the complexity of skill sets necessary to masterfully perform on a symphonic pipe organ.

The true joys of this job are many. Meeting and greeting the finest artists from all over the globe, shepherding young artists and watching them grow and mature in their art form, and developing relationships with donors who are passionate about the Kotzschmar and its value to our community and society has been immensely rewarding. Working side-by-side with board members whose passion and dedication to the KO have made it the survivor it is, and working with the many volunteers that serve FOKO’s vast array of activities has deepened my appreciation for how this gem brings people together in Portland. A special thanks to Ray Cornils and the part-time staff over the years.

The renovation process was the pièce de résistance. The challenges were many but the team was incredibly gifted. Seeing the KO being dismantled piece by piece, in parts at Foley-Baker, and then reconstructed with such care and love, was testimony that this instrument does indeed have a soul. All who have touched it, maintained it, performed on it are a part of its soul. The patina is rich and beautiful.

The KO is the people’s pipe organ. FOKO continues to need your support to maintain and carry on the legacy for generations to come. I have been blessed to be a part of this journey. Thank you to all who have helped to make this possible and may the journey continue for the next 100 years.

—Kathleen Grammer