The Oregon Chord - Web Page

© 2001 L&JN

    Mike Bryant was a child of the 50's and 60's in the San Francisco bay area, where he was raised by his grandparents. His grandmother was a music teacher, and recognized he had a little musical talent early on. "I would sit at the piano or organ and pick out the melody of tunes I had heard her students play. I don't remember when I started that, it just seems like I always did it." She was a firm believer that it never works to teach your own kids, so along with starting Kindergarten he was sent across the street to a neighbor who gave him his first piano lessons once a week after school.
    "We had a piano, but also a Baldwin spinet organ and a Baldwin church organ with a full AGO pedal board at home. I couldn't reach the pedals on the big one, and just barely on the spinet. My grandmother was always running me off the organ and back to the piano for my practice time."
    Eventually, she relented and at about age 9 Mike began formal organ studies with John Burke in Oakland. He heard his first live theatre organ around that time at the San Francisco Fox, and was hooked.
    Over the years, he was fortunate to have several excellent teachers, including the late Tom Hazleton, who was the first to really encourage his theatre organ work. In the Bay Area, Mike was the organist for a number of churches. At one time he was playing for two different churches at the same time. "They were three blocks apart, and each adjusted their Sunday service schedules a little bit to make it work", he says.
    Mike later moved to Reno, Nevada, where he lived for 27 years. There were no theatre organs in public venues in Reno, so his church positions were the only steady public playing he did during that time. He kept his hand in on the "pop" side by working for a Baldwin and Conn organ dealer for several years. "When Baldwin or Conn came out with a new model, we'd do a concert for the combined organ clubs in the area featuring the new model. I'm amazed at how many Conn 650 series organs survive today."
    After moving to Seattle in 1996, Mike became involved with the restoration and installation of a 3/16 Kimball/Wurlitzer hybrid in the Historic Everett Theatre. That facilitated his re-entry into the theatre organ world, and after being transferred by his company to the Boulder, Colorado area in 2002, he began public performing on theatre organs once again. "One of the most fun performances was at the Denver Paramount on the original installation Wurlitzer Publix 1. I was asked to play for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's national convention opening and closing ceremonies. There were people there of all ages who had an interest in preservation, not just of the exteriors of buildings, but what goes inside as well. Most of them had never heard a real theatre organ before."
    In 2005, Mike was transferred back to the Pacific Northwest. By day, he is Director of Information Technology for Nautilus, Inc., which has its world headquarters in Vancouver, Washington. "Unless they ship me off to Europe, it looks like I'll be here to stay."
    Many people have had the opportunity to hear him play at several different venues in the Portland/Vancouver area in the last year. He's a great musician who offers a varied and entertaining program.
    Mike has been a member of the American Theatre Organ Society for several years.
This bio was prepared by Terry Robson and Mike Bryant.
Oregon Chapter Newsletter
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