For an organist, having both legs amputated might be a devastating, career-ending event. Not so for 79-year-old Bill Otis, who continues to play keyboard at his church and shrugs off his disability as just something that must be dealt with. However, the lack of an appropriate practice instrument at home was a major frustration for him.
Ideas began to brew when fellow Ventura County AGO members saw and heard a Roland Classic C-200 organ keyboard demonstrated at the 2013 regional convention in Bakersfield. It seemed like a perfect fit for Bill’s needs.
At a subsequent Ventura County Chapter AGO meeting a couple of members overheard Bill talking with Nelson Dodge, Church Keyboard Center president, about finding a suitable practice instrument for his home and a plan was ignited. Fellow members were solicited to chip in to get Bill a new keyboard. Support was instantly forthcoming, and Church Keyboard Center offered to provide the keyboard at cost. Soon thereafter a gathering at Bill’s home for a surprise presentation was planned.
So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in October, several Ventura County and Los Angeles Chapter AGO members converged on Bill’s home with a new Roland Classic C-200 organ keyboard in tow. Nelson Dodge explained and demonstrated many of the capabilities of this feature-rich keyboard, and Bill was off and running.
The party continued with a buffet of pies to celebrate the occasion. Stories were shared: how each had first become acquainted with Bill, his experiences helping out on important organ installations in Los Angeles as a young man and getting to know major organ builders of the time, and recollections of his experiences as an organist at churches throughout Southern California.
Bill’s love for organ performance was most evident when he shared copies of the programs of every organ recital he has played throughout his life, carefully preserved in a plastic bag. “When I look at these now, I can’t believe I played some of that stuff,” Bill said. “I was younger then.”