Published: September 22, 2017

Kavin “Sam” Alderman’s Tampa home is full of pipes. The UT junior can look back at his young life and see the progression from Legos to science sets to now the genesis of a full-size pipe organ.

“I must have some engineer in me,” said Alderman ’19, a music major with a passion for organ – both constructing and playing it.

Alderman is building a pipe organ in his Tampa bedroom, a task he hopes is made easier with the skills he learned this summer in Massachusetts as an intern at C.B. Fisk Organ making reed boots, which contain all the moving parts of the reed pipe, and doing a lot of metal rounding and soldering. He also cut enough wood to make two octaves of wooden pipes.

“Every day was a completely different set of tasks, and although there were some projects I was given that lasted multiple days, it still didn't last long enough to be routine,” Alderman said. “I suppose the only thing I could expect completely was to do something different the next day!”

During the last three weeks, he helped disassemble two completed organs and then load them up for transport to two churches in Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

“Having the opportunity to work at C.B. Fisk is like winning the lottery in terms of the prestige of this firm,” said Ryan Hebert, associate professor of music and University organist. “He was interviewed on Skype and he showed the guys at Fisk the work he had been doing on his own pipe organ. They were impressed and offered him an internship a week later.”

The experience has given him a better understanding of the instrument, which will help him as a performer. He wants to pursue graduate school in pipe organ construction and technology, so he said the internship was “infinitely invaluable.”

“I am overwhelmingly passionate about this and have been for a few years now,” Alderman said. “Setting aside all the knowledge and experience I gained, I can say I made connections at this company that will last a lifetime.”

Alderman wanted to be a piano major (an instrument he played since he was 5) up until his senior year of high school. Then he met Hebert.

“He took me under his wing,” said Alderman, who also fell in love with the UT campus. “Dr. Hebert is 90 percent of the reason I’m here.”

Hebert sees it another way.

“In Sam’s case, he only started playing the organ about 10 months before he decided he wanted to major in it. When he approached me about studying organ (while he was in high school), I could see right away that he had this white-hot burning desire to do this,” Hebert said. “For whatever reason, my colleagues and I have an ability to find these kinds of students who know deep down that music is their calling, and we help draw the best musician out of them by creating a unique, personalized, non-competitive environment.”

Alderman was one of two organ majors at UT, with the other, Madeleine Varda ’17, having just graduated. That leaves him with the complete attention of Hebert.

“I love going back to school,” Alderman said. “There's something exhilarating about it; and now that I'm the only organ student at UT, I get to steal Dr. Hebert's full attention.”

With Hebert’s mentorship, Alderman landed a part-time job with a Christian Science church his first year, playing at their services on Wednesdays and Sundays. This fall, he’ll start at the church organist at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. And then there’s the internship with Fisk.

“I’ll have two jobs in my profession, which are hard to get, before I even graduate,” Alderman said. “Absolutely UT has impacted my career path.”

Next summer he plans to join Hebert for part of his sabbatical in Amsterdam at the International Organ Festival. Then he wants to end his senior year with an internship at Dobson, the firm that built the organ in UT’s Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values. Then he’ll pursue graduate studies in the U.S. and a doctorate in Europe.

“Then I want to come back to the U.S. to teach at a university and play as a church organist,” Alderman said. “Being able to say you have experience not only playing but maintaining your instrument is golden.”

Hebert has never had a student to build his or her own pipe organ, something he said you have to be more than crafty to bring to fruition. This kind of desire and passion will serve Alderman well.

“Music has this way about it, like many creative fields, that if you love it by passionately nurturing your gifts, it loves you back by providing you a unique career path that never feels like work,” Hebert said. “Most of us who have made a living in the arts have made this magic happen, and Sam is well on his way.”

Have a story idea? Contact Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer   
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