TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Of all the instruments meant for playing Christmas music, the organ might outperform them all.
"It's very very vital that people still understand the importance of these old instruments," said professor Kimberly Marshall.
Marshall heads the organ program at the Arizona State University School of Music.
She was given her first chance to learn the organ at age 15.
"And I, like any self-respecting teenager, was horrified at the thought of studying the boring organ. I associated it with church music and old people playing," she said.
She took the lesson anyway and was hooked.
"It's like being the conductor of an orchestra except you can really control it," said Marshall.
But she says the same mentality she had can sometimes make it hard to get young people interested.
"I am facing some big recruiting problems," said Marshall.
She says playing the organ is not like playing the piano.
"The most obvious difference is a piano has three pedals, and we have a full keyboard here," she demonstrated.
She says learning it takes years of practice.
"It's really a question of finding a local church, synagogue center, a place that might have an instrument that might allow them to practice," said Marshall.
And as many churches are moving to more modern music, some are getting rid of their organs.
"And I'm just very worried that it could end up on the scrap heap," said Marshall.
That would make it harder for students to find instruments to practice on.
"And to lose that history and to lose that music and the ability to carry that forward to future generations would be a horrible, horrible loss," said Laura Bartlett.
Thankfully, ASU has several organs in its collection.
Now, a new scholarship created by Bartlett is helping get more budding players in front of the keys.
"My parents both loved music," said Bartlett. "My father was disabled from a fairly severe stroke. My mother had died, and I moved him from Tucson to Phoenix. And he wasn't particularly happy about any of these events that had happened. I brought him to the Christmas organ concert having never come to it myself before and just saw the joy that brought him," Bartlett said.
After her father died, she started the Bartlett-Armstrong Family Scholarship. It will be awarded to a graduate student next year, with the hopes of keeping the music playing for generations to come.
"This gives me more sustenance for the programs and ways to attract organists," said Marshall.