Greg Stoskopf and Beth (Thomas) Clark met in kindergarten more than 40 years ago in Baxter Springs, and have been best friends ever since. Besides their everyday normal childhood likes and dislikes, one thing that drew them together and kept them together was their mutual love for music.
Greg began studying the pipe organ when he was just a small boy from Jeff Nichols. Luckily, the First Methodist Church in Baxter Springs was home to an exquisite pipe organ that had been in the church since 1928. Beth began studying piano with Janet Tash Adams at Goade Music Store in Baxter Springs when she was seven-years old.
“We maintain the tradition of training young people of our community – not just Methodists – in music. And they always come back to us,” said Jack Hemphill, music director of the church since 1971.
The First Methodist Church of Baxter Springs was originally built in 1918, purchasing the organ in 1928.
“The organ is nearly a hundred years old,” stated Denton Lazenby, Lay Leader in the church. “Lightening struck the organ about four years go; it [the organ] has been repaired twice already. We have estimates between $34,000 and $55,000 for the repairs. When you only have about a hundred members in the church, that is quite a lot of money.”
In 1967, it was discovered that the console and the wiring of the classic Henners Pipe Organ were deteriorating and had to be refurbished at a cost of $80,000.
Greg Stoskopf and Beth Stark are passionate about keeping the organ functioning to its full potential. Hosting a benefit concert on Sunday, September 30, at the church, Greg spoke of the needs for the organ and the benefits it has made to the community.
“Playing music is both a hobby and an avocation that Beth and I really enjoy,” Stoskopf stated. “We love to keep it up, and we love to keep the organ running.
“Most the the congregation doesn't hear, but when you are actually playing the organ, you find it has a mind of its own. Sometimes it won't play the notes it's supposed to, yet other times it plays notes all on its own that aren't even in the music!”
Stoskopf continued, “As far as the organ goes, we must update its controls, update the internal wiring, and things you just don't see. It's time for some work, and hopefully, we can get it there.”
In an effort to raise funds for the organ restoration, Brad Hemphill, son of Music Director Jack Hemphill, has produced a CD titled “Joys and Concerns,” containing hymns and uplifting musical arrangements. The church also has T-Shirts for sale with “Organ Donor” written on the front. Both the CDs and the T-Shirts are $10 each. All funds will go to rebuild the organ.
Persons wishing to contribute to the refurbishing of the nearly century-old organ may make contributions directly to the church, located at 1310 East Avenue, phone number 620-856-5996. Church office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 am until noon.
“We are going to keep our music alive through our children,” said Denton Lazenby. “If we can't get it fixed, we're just going to play the organ like it is until it quits.”