ABC South West breakfast announcer Jeremy Lee promises not to play pipe organ music on his radio program.
But he is enjoying what was his “secret life” as a pipe organ scholar at St Joseph’s Church in Warrnambool.
Mr Lee is in the second year of his scholarship, which involves fortnightly lessons over two years from Geelong tutor Brendon Lukin.
He said the pipe organ was “a fabulous instrument” and was revelling in the rare opportunity to play one.
“It’s loud and exciting,” he said of the sound and admitted he had sometimes been told to play quieter at church services.
“You can get carried away with the power of it.”
For Mr Lee, who is not religious, the scholarship was an opportunity to develop from being a self-described “bad pianist”.
St Joseph’s is funding the scholarships to build up a pool of pipe organists who can play not only the huge instrument at St Joseph’s but at others churches throughout the south-west.
Scholarship spokesman Robert Craven said the scholarships were launched in 2011 to remedy the region’s declining pipe organ skills base. Most pipe organists in the south-west were “reluctant organists” with limited experience who had been encouraged by their church to give the instrument some use.
This had meant that pipe organs were not being played often or to their capacity and were at risk of deteriorating.
“If pipe organs are not used regularly, they deteriorate much more quickly,” Mr Craven said.
The 19th century Fincham and Hobday pipe organ in St Joseph’s loft is one of the largest in the south-west and has had at least two restorations in recent decades.
But without enough organists, the restoration work would be of little benefit.
Mr Craven said the pipe organ was “a natural, breathing, alive instrument.
“You have some beautiful sounds come out of it. If it is played well, it’s not just power, it is making music.”
He said St Joseph’s was offering another three full-fee-paying scholarships next year. Each was for two years with the recipients expected to commit to playing at church services and choir performances in their third year. Initial lessons were face-to-face with Mr Lukin at St Joseph’s but later lessons were often through the Skype internet service.
Mr Craven said applicants were expected to be proficient in piano. Applications close on November 30.