Jon H. Thieszen
Jon H. Thieszen is Technical Designer with Dobson Pipe Organ Builders. In 1975, while still in college, he began coming to Lake City for summer work at the Dobson shop. Subsequent summers found him returning until he was hired as a full-time employee in 1978. Since then, Jon’s role within the company has grown steadily and led to his appointment as Technical Designer in 1984. He has been responsible for the technical design and working drawings of over fifty new organs and numerous rebuilding projects. These instruments stand as testaments to Jon’s consistently fine work, and furthermore demonstrate the benefits of having on our staff a designer who is also an active organist.
Born the son of a Mennonite minister, Jon’s childhood was spent in Ohio, Kansas and Minnesota. This exposed him, as he says, “to organs and ‘non-organs’ of all kinds.” He naturally gained an interest in the church organ at an early age. After several years of piano studies, he began organ lessons as a high school freshman and began playing for church services a few years later. Jon attended Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, studying organ with Alice Loewen and Shirley Sprunger King. Though he received a Bachelor of Arts in Church Music and Organ Performance, Jon has always had strong interests in the technical aspects of the organ. His studies in high school and college included a variety of industrial arts, mechanical drawing and design courses.
Jon’s first years in Lake City were spent on the construction of nearly every part of a pipe organ, from reservoirs and keyboards to windchests and casework. He was also involved in the final on-site installation of new organs. For an instrument in which every part is interconnected and small changes can have great consequences, this thorough background in all facets of organbuilding was the ideal training for a designer, giving Jon a practical understanding of how each part affects and relates to the whole.
As the company grew and Lynn Dobson’s other responsibilities limited the time he could spend in the drawing room, Jon assumed a greater role in the mechanical design. He and Lynn work closely, Lynn conceiving the instrument and making presentation drawings, and Jon making all of the mechanical drawings necessary to build the instrument. It is a tribute to his skill and attention to detail that his construction drawings for our Op. 75 were chosen for display at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (see this issue’s Newsbits). In addition to his many design and supervisory duties, Jon is also the shop’s unofficial Macintosh guru. His knowledge of computers was key when the shop began using them nearly fifteen years ago, and to this day keeps our company on the cutting edge of computer aided organ design.
Jon and his wife Maurine, who is the Dietician at Lake City’s Stewart Memorial Community Hospital, are both musical people: in addition to the organ, Jon plays the trombone, Maurine is a fine soprano and plays the flute. In 1984, Jon designed and built their 1,900 sq. ft. home on a wooded one acre lot in the northeast section of town. Jon has always been something of a car afficionado, and can comment knowledgeably on just about any model past or present. Cars figure more prosaically now in his life, as he chauffeurs his two teenagers, Patrick and Erin.
Jon is a member of the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO) and has presented lectures at a number of AIO seminars. He has been a member of the AIO Education Committee since 1994. Jon has served as organist of Lake City Union Church since 1980, presiding over Op. 13 (II/29; 1980).
drawn from The Organbuilder, Fall 2001
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