Laguna Niguel California Organ Workshop – February 2017

Welcome to the 2017 Laguna Niguel, California Organ Workshop! The workshop was held at the Laguna Niguel Stake Center on February 10-11, 2017. There were 176 attendees from 24 stakes at the organ training on Saturday morning. Huge thank you to the local coordinator, Jami Ward, for all the hard work she put into making this workshop happen! Instructor biographies can be found at the bottom of the page


Presenters and local coordinator from left to right: Joseph Peeples, Dr. Don Cook, Sharee Thompson, Nora Hess, Kymberly (Stone) Payne and Jami Ward (local coordinator)

Laguna Niguel Flyer.jpgMeet the Workshop Instructors:


music-don_cookDr. Don Cook joined the organ faculty of Brigham Young University in 1991. In that capacity he serves as organ area coordinator, as university carillonneur, and oversees the group organ program. Formerly he held associate organist/choirmaster positions at Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and at First United Methodist Church, Lubbock, Texas. He toured Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia with the Lubbock choir, and accompanied the Parish Choir of Christ Church Cranbrook on a singing tour of England.

After earning Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in organ at Brigham Young University, he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Organ Performance from the University of Kansas. His principal organ teachers were J.J. Keeler at BYU and James Moeser at KU. For many years he served as head of the instrumental area for the BYU Workshop on Church Music, and currently directs the annual BYU Organ Workshop, founded in 2002. He appears frequently as a Guest Organist at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

Dr. Cook studied carillon with Albert Gerken while pursuing doctoral studies in organ at the University of Kansas. He became a full member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America in 1984, and has performed actively throughout North America since that time. He has served on the Board of Directors and as chair of the Music Publications Committee for the Guild. Carillon performances include a concert tour of Holland in 1990, and a recital tour of east-coast carillons in the summer of 1992. In 1994 he hosted the annual Congress of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America at Brigham Young University.

He has developed and published the first multimedia organ tutorial for pianists, Organ Tutor Organ 101 in several versions. The tutorial is used for private and group instruction, BYU Independent Study courses, and by individuals in at least nine countries.

Nora HessNora Hess grew up studying the piano at BYU, but began playing the organ in her 20’s after the only organist in her small Iowa congregation moved away. She has been active as a piano teacher, organist, accompanist, conductor, and member of community choirs for many years, eventually serving in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from 2004-2014. A few years ago, Nora began more serious organ studies, and she is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at BYU. She has extensive experience teaching students of all ages and accompanying choirs. Her special passion is teaching children and youth how to play the organ.  Nora and her husband, Bret, have been married for 36 years and are the parents of 10 children and 9 grandchildren.

dsc_0371croppedKymberly (Stone) Payne is a young organist who is passionate about sharing her love of the organ, and the power we have as organists to bless others and change lives. Kymberly completed her Masters of Music with an emphasis in Organ Performance at Brigham Young University in 2016, even though she didn’t start playing the organ until just a few years earlier. Her first introduction to the organ started at BYU in 2009 when she took Music 115: Basic Organ Skills from Don Cook. While listening to the organ at an evensong service in Oxford the next summer, her love of the organ blossomed, and the rest is history! She began the music program in 2010 and graduated with her Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in Organ Performance, Magna Cum Laude, August 2013.

While at BYU, Kymberly taught and performed extensively, both on the organ and carillon. As part of her graduate assistantship, Kymberly taught group organ classes, sightsinging and dictation classes, as well as private carillon and organ lessons. In addition to teaching, Kymberly was an Associate Carillonneur at Brigham Young University where she gave weekly carillon recitals, and assisted in organ tuning and repair on campus. She accompanied the congregational hymn for the weekly BYU Devotionals seventeen times, and performed in both group and solo organ concerts frequently.

In January of 2016, she began working as Organ Department Executive Assistant, and continued her work for BYU after graduation. She married Curt Payne in November 2016 and moved to California, but she is humbled that she gets to continue her involvement with these LDS Organ Workshops from her home in San Leandro, CA as BYU Organ Workshop Administrator. During her involvement with these workshops, she has planned, performed, and taught at various LDS Organ Workshops around Utah County (including teaching at the annual BYU Organ Workshop), as well as in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, California, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon.

Kymberly currently serves as Ward Organist in San Leandro, CA, and is working on starting her private organ studio in her new home. She is a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), the Organ Historical Society (OHS) and is a carillonneur member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA). Her newest organ service opportunity is her lifetime appointment as Guest Organist at the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

Choice 1 - 6418Joseph Peeples is an adjunct faculty member at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, where he teaches applied organ and courses in music appreciation and keyboard harmony, and Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he teaches applied piano and courses in music theory and aural skills. Joseph also serves on the faculty of the annual Brigham Young University Organ Workshop in Provo, Utah, where he has taught courses on a variety of topics, including organ registration, organ literature, pedal technique, improvisation, and music theory. Before joining the faculty at CLU and Pepperdine, he taught a wide variety of courses in music theory and musicianship at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana and Brigham Young University.

Joseph has a great love for organ and sacred music and its unique power to bring people closer to Christ. He has been a church musician for 20 years, with substantial experience in congregational and choral accompanying. This experience includes being Organist of Speedway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Speedway, Indiana and accompanying the nationally-recognized collegiate choirs of Brigham Young University. He currently serves as substitute organist for churches throughout the Los Angeles area.

Recently, Joseph performed at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (Charleston, South Carolina) as part of the L’Organo recital series of Charleston’s annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival. He has also given recitals at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. He was a finalist in the 2014 Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition in Organ Playing and won second place in the 2009 AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists, Salt Lake City Chapter.

Joseph has completed doctoral coursework at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he studied organ with Janette Fishell and Christopher Young, improvisation and sacred music with Bruce Neswick, conducting with Walter Huff, and harpsichord with Elisabeth Wright. He received a Master of Music degree from Brigham Young University, studying organ with Don Cook and Doug Bush, conducting with Rosalind Hall, and carillon with Don Cook. He also received a Bachelor of Art degree from California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, California.

He presently lives in Thousand Oaks, California with his wife, Ellen, and their son, Isaac.

Sharee Thompson.jpgSharee Thompson holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Music degree from Utah State University, both in organ performance, where she studied with James Higdon and James Drake, respectively.  While living in Kansas, she served as organist at First Presbyterian Church, Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church, and Baldwin First United Methodist Church.

Sharee currently accompanies a number of choirs along the Wasatch Front including Vox Humana Choral Ensemble, Utah Valley Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, and Maple Mountain High School Choirs.  She performs regularly with the Utah Symphony and as a guest organist on Temple Square.

Sharee has participated in several master classes and competitions, winning second prize in the 2003 AGO Competition for Young Organists held in Salt Lake City.  She runs a large private studio of organ and piano students and is the administrative assistant for the organ department at BYU.  She and her husband, Matthew, are the parents of two children.