Faces: Jane Theiss

For more than 23 years, Jane Theiss has brought music to many ears as chief organist at the First Presbyterian Church in Carson City.

Her commanding yet delicate fingers no longer grace the keyboards as she retired from her position on Sept. 10.

"I just felt like it was time," said Theiss, who has been at a keyboard since the age of 6. She and her three sisters all majored in music.

In addition to playing organ, Theiss teaches piano at her home. She has about 25 students ranging in age from five to 80. She also plays at funerals, weddings and performs chamber concerts with a string quartet.

Theiss has both a bachelor and master's degrees in music. She then taught at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., which just happened to be a Presbyterian-related college.

"Then I got married, and we lived in California, Ohio, Wisconsin. Our oldest daughter had asthma and the doctor recommended a drier climate and higher altitude for her to make breathing easier. My husband is a watch maker and a job opened up for him so, we moved and lived in Reno a short while, then came to Carson City in 1972."

Since being in Nevada Theiss has been active in myriad activities. She became a member of the American Guild of Organists, Northern Nevada Chapter in 1976 or '77. For the past several years, she has performed a piano duet with Squeek LaVake at the Brewery Arts Center and The Atrium at the Airport Gardens in Reno.

Before becoming organist at First Presbyterian Church, she was the choir director at St. Paul's Lutheran Family Church in Carson City.

"Jack Blaikie was choir director for 44 years at First Presbyterian, he's the one who asked me to come to here. I did so in 1977."

The organ Theiss played on is a Moeller with eight ranks, a 2-manual plus (foot) pedal. The sounds that emanate range from the soft tones of the flute and clarinet, the double-reed instruments of oboe and bassoon, to the majestic, uplifting sounds of a brass chorus with subtle, underlying harmonies.

"We added three ranks of pipes three years ago, in 1997. It adds a more full and rich tone. There's probably 800 or more pipes to this organ."

At a young age, Theiss envisioned her future and thoughts of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York came to mind.

"I think any musician at one time would like to think they would perform there. I did in 1994 and 1996 with the Sierra Nevada Chorale. I played on piano and organ. And the acoustics there are fantastic. That's when I sat there and said to myself, 'Here I am, on stage at Carnegie Hall.' Finally, that thought of 'one day' came true."

Theiss, at the request of her six children, will record a CD of piano music, with their choice of musical numbers.

"I'll still do get-togethers with my students, perform with Squeek and the chamber concerts. I just won't be performing any longer at the church. My whole life has been music. I want to spend more time on piano, I feel there is so much more for me to learn.

"I'm thinking I'm going to miss it (organ), and I'm sure I will. But I won't be twiddling my thumbs like I've nothing to do - I will."


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