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Lynn Dobson

As President and Artistic Director of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Lynn Dobson and his firm have acquired an impressive reputation by the completion of 90 new organs and 40 restorations and rebuilds of older instruments since the company’s founding in 1974. Though firmly rooted in the traditions of fine organ building, his artistic approach to elements of organ design has never been bound by the practices of those who have gone before him. He attempts to conceive each instrument as a unique work of art for our time.

Lynn Dobson’s interests in architecture, gardening, the visual arts and the study of nature may seem peripheral to organbuilding, but they in fact are so intertwined as a single discipline that these interests become inseparable and define who he is, how he lives and what he does. Lynn experienced the ways of craftsmen at an early age. When the barn on the family farm burned in the winter of 1954, a new, traditionally framed barn was built the following summer. At the age of five, Lynn was given his first tool box and tools by the carpenters so he could “help” them with their work. Over the next dozen years, the same carpenters returned each summer, eventually building an entirely new set of buildings on the farm.

In 1966, while in high school, Lynn was awarded a scholarship by the James J. Hill Foundation to attend summer design classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. This experience directed him into a lifelong journey of learning artistic integrity and discovering the secrets of good design.

Lynn studied Art and Industrial Education at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. He took the greatest interest in three-dimensional design classes and specialized in sculpture. He also studied drafting, woodworking, metal technology, blacksmithing, electricity, shop drawing and management skills, all of which proved to serve him well as an organbuilder.

Exposure to the organ and its music first came through his sister, a church organist, and continued through personal reading, study and working for an organ service company during his college years. By the time he graduated from college, Lynn had designed an organ that he then built during the year following his graduation. This instrument served Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sioux City, Iowa, from 1974 until the church closed in 2009; it was subsequently given by Our Savior's to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, where it continues to serve as part of a vibrant worship community.

A profound experience during college was Lynn’s introduction to the writing of John Neihardt. In his Cycle of the West, Neihardt wrote heroic songs of the West celebrating the prairie lands, its native people and the 19th century pioneer settlers. This interest in the settling of the West, in addition to his own experience of growing up on the prairie, continually reaffirms his decision to live and work in rural Iowa. Lynn’s own prairie acreage is covered with wildflowers in early summer and big bluestem grass which, come fall, stands a full eight feet tall.

Lynn has steadily continued to undertake sculptures and other art projects, completing many commissions for churches, residences and schools. The sculptures are made entirely from fragments of wood left from building organs, an expression of the symbiotic relationship between the sculptures and organ building.

Lynn Dobson remains thoroughly involved in the daily activities of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd. His work includes extensive travel to meet with clients, architects and contractors in developing new projects. At the shop, Lynn generates the initial mechanical, tonal and visual designs of all new organs and continues to work closely with members of the firm as more detailed design decisions are made and construction takes place. His work on-site includes installation of the instrument, collaborating on the tonal finishing process, and final examination of the completed instrument. Attending the dedicatory event of a completed project provides Lynn with the satisfaction of seeing and hearing the finished instrument in the environment for which it was created.

drawn from The Organbuilder, Spring 2001

You may be interested to view a page of Lynn Dobson’s sculptures.


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Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd.
200 North Illinois Street • Post Office Box 25
Lake City, Iowa 51449 USA
+1 712 464 8065

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