Stories

Phil Breitfeld shares memories from childhood

Memories come to us in unexpected ways and times. I was talking with Charlie Bauder about ways I could give back to Geneva. My sister had recommended I talk with him. Some background on me; I spent my first 18 years in Geneva, attended public schools in Geneva, then left Geneva when I went to college in 1971. I am now a physician, living in North Carolina, semi-retired.

Getting back to Charlie, he was reviewing with me organizations and efforts to support the Geneva community. He mentioned the St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy programs, one that my medical school classmate Mike Collins had also mentioned to me a month or so earlier. I asked Charlie to remind me where the parish was located. Once he told me, my mind instantly took me back to a memory when I was in 6th grade … probably Spring 1965. It was a Saturday and a group of my friends, each learning a different musical instrument, me the trumpet, were looking for a place for our ‘band’ to play. I guess one of my friends attended St. Peter’s since that is where we ended up going. There was a room next to the sanctuary where we played for an hour or so. As we were packing up our instruments to leave, one of us, not me, had the idea that we could sneak into the sanctuary and play the organ. I thought this was great because I had recently learned to play the piano and wondered what it would be like to play the organ. For me, the keyboard was self-taught. We had a piano at home and my sister was taking lessons. After she finished practicing, I would review her lesson books and try my best to learn to play the piano on my own. It worked! So, I wanted to try my new found skill by playing a real pipe organ, something I had never done. As soon as I depressed the keys and heard the sound, I was in love.

That afternoon when I returned home, I started working on my parents to support me with organ lessons and getting an electric home organ so I could practice consistently. This was not a no-brainer, for my father in particular. But eventually I wore him down, he relented, and I got some formal training. I secured lessons with a classical organ instructor. Once I was good enough, he recommended me to be the organist for the Phelps Presbyterian Church, which I did for two years. This was when I was at Geneva High School. Then through college and medical school, I occasionally substituted for church organists in Geneva and Canandaigua. Playing the organ was a great source of joy and meaning for me for many years. And it turns out, St. Peter’s made the difference. It was where my love for the pipe organ began.

The availability of the space at St. Peter’s started me on my church and classical organ journey. I want to do what I can to help the next ‘Phil’ have an opportunity to learn an instrument and experience the joy I did. By affording me the opportunity to support St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy, I can give back in this way.

« View all posts