A Young Organist Plays A Madison Gem

By Jon Hornbacher | September 19, 2018


The two-story-tall pipes of the concert organ in Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts were designed especially for the space, and visually recall the rolling hills of Wisconsin.

“When people come in there they’re in awe of it. Then they hear how loud it is and even how soft it can get, it’s unbelievable,” says Greg Zelek, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s principal organist and curator of the Overture concert organ.

At age 26, Zelek is quite extraordinary in the classical music world.

“I look younger than I am and I think my age is younger than people would expect,” states Zelek. “I need to try to grow out a beard but nothing happens!”

A native of Miami, Florida, Zelek began playing piano at a young age and took to it naturally. But transitioning to the organ required a completely new set of skills.

“The organ is a very physical instrument. It’s not just your hands, it’s also your feet. I would say it’s one of the most challenging things for any organist is that you rarely play on an instrument that’s even similar to another. All organs are unique.”

For an instrument many only encounter in churches or baseball games, Zelek thinks it’s important for him to be an ambassador for the organ.

“I feel like I have a responsibility to get people into the hall that one time to listen to it. There is intrinsic value in this repertoire that we’ve had for so many years. One of the most famous classical music composers, Bach, wrote so much music for the organ specifically. It’s some of the most beautiful music society has ever produced.”

Jon Hornbacher

Jon Hornbacher

Jon Hornbacher is a video director and editor based in the Madison, Wisconsin area. He has written and produced several television programs for PBS Wisconsin including “Remarkable Homes of Wisconsin” (2015) and “Our House: The Wisconsin Capitol” (2017).

Related Links for this Article

The Magic of the Mighty Klais… 2018-2019 MSO Overture Concert Organ Performances

2018-09-20T13:56:57-05:00Tags: , |

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