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Washington Voices

Church Organist Takes Job Seriously

Alice Hostetter sits at the keyboard of the organ focusing intently on the notes she is playing, her feet dancing from pedal to pedal.

Hostetter is belting out a rendition of “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” in preparation for worship services at First Presbyterian Church downtown. The instrument’s large pipes cover nearly an entire wall and the floor of the sanctuary trembled with each deep note.

Hostetter, a Valley resident who bas been playing the organ for 35 years, recently ended a 13-year stint as the organist for Millwood Presbyterian Church.

Hostetter decided she would make being a church organist her career after her fifth-grade teacher told her to write an essay on what she wanted to be when she grew up. It didn’t matter that she had never played the organ before.

Hostetter said she plans to retire sometime in the next few years. “I call this my last hurrah before my retirement,” she said.

There were several advantages to taking the position at First Presbyterian, including getting a chance to play on a larger organ and being able to worship with the rest of her family, who are members there. The only drawback was having to leave the people she had gotten to know over the years at the Millwood church.

“I hated to leave the people there,” she says.

The people at Millwood Presbyterian feel the same way. Stan McDaniel, minister of music at Millwood Presbyterian, has worked with Hostetter on and off for the last 10 years. He described her as one of the finest organists he has ever worked with.

“She’s a really outstanding musician and a great person to work with,” McDaniel said.

Hostetter said she was encouraged to apply for the organist’s job at First Presbyterian by friend and fellow organist Jan Whaley, who had held the job for 30 years before retiring earlier this year.

Hostetter and Whaley have been friends for more than 15 years. Thirteen years ago they took an eight-week bicycle trip together, from Spokane to Boston. The women stopped and played in several Presbyterian churches along the route.

“We met a lot of interesting people along the way,” said Hostetter.

They have taken several shorter bicycle trips together since that Spokane-to-Boston ride. The two women now fly to locations around the country every summer for shorter, two-week bike tours.

After her retirement, Hostetter, who is 51, plans to do some traveling with her husband and fill in occasionally if First Presbyterian needs a substitute organist. After all, playing the organ is an important part of the worship service.

“To play the organ, to me, is not just a job, it’s a way of ministering to people.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo