SoCal transplant plays ‘king of instruments’ |

SoCal transplant plays ‘king of instruments’

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Organist Mike Lynch and his fiancee Shawna Cortner at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Monday. Cortner is the new choir director and Lynch is the new organist.

While Mike Lynch and his fiancee, Shawna Cortner, were living in Rancho Bernardo, near San Diego, Calif., they planned to move to Northern Nevada or Northern California.

After making hundreds of calls, Lynch narrowed down his job search to be a full-time organist to four churches: Bethlehem Lutheran in Carson City, a church in Sacramento and two in the Reno area.

He chose Carson City as their new home.

Lynch, 30, has played piano since boyhood but recently began playing the organ.

“I began playing organ about five years ago,” he said. “There’s plenty for me to still learn. I endeavor to learn ’til my dying day.”

Lynch said he would practice piano late into the night. He saw an ad for an organist and thought to himself, “It’s a job.”

“I didn’t think I’d get it,” he admitted.

“I rehearsed on the college organ, auditioned, and got the job. The organ is called the king of instruments.”

Lynch said many organists don’t play “good stuff.” They settle for music not appropriately written for the organ, music he says is not that interesting.

“I prefer playing the pipes,” he said. “I have my favorites: Bach, who wrote music for the organ, Brahms – it’s just great music. There’s just too much good stuff out there.”

Lynch said he’s developed his talent through a lot of hard work and practice. He hopes to take the American Guild Organization’s exam next year to join the organization.

“It’s pretty hard,” he said. “It’s a three-day exam: two days of written testing, plus improvisation, open-score reading, transposing and performing.”

Lynch’s goal is to make Carson City a place of music and culture, showcasing music on the pipe organ. He is talking with the Bethlehem church board and congregation about holding public concerts at the church,.

“The organ here is a good, solid organ,” he said. “It’s small, but I’ve been talking with the congregation about expanding the pipes on it.”

Prior to working in Carson City, Lynch played for the West Lake Methodist Church and Canoga Park Methodist Church, both in Southern California.

“We love it here,” he said. “My grandfather and father live here. We love the Sierra Nevada.”

Cortner, 34, has a bachelor of science degree in music and plays flute.

She will direct the choir and handbell choir at the church. “I didn’t do much with my degree. Now I can put it to use,” she said.

“I’m excited we can work together,” Cortner said. The couple plans to marry in October.

“Mike has a great passion for his music and sharing it with people. It’s inspiring for me to watch and listen to what he does.”

The piece Lynch will perform Sunday is “Toccata in F” by Widor.

Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.