by Steve Panizza
When I began college, I could have majored in music or engineering. I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The Parkside approach to engineering was innovative and allowed me the opportunity to develop my imagination and creative side in an undergraduate-focused program. And Parkside was just down the road from Carthage.
My college years were a directed study in organ building. In addition to the engineering program at Parkside, I could spend time at nearby Carthage College in their prestigious organ program. With its four-manual baroque-inspired mechanical action pipe organ, their program would provide opportunities and connections to nurture and influence my development as a pipe organ builder.
My grandfather Stefano immigrated to this country from the small village of Vermiglio, located in the northern Italian Alps. The alpine region of Europe is one of shared culture regardless of national borders. This understanding allows me to craft a design narrative that I identify as my own, seemingly passed down through an ancestry of shared cross-border culture that engendered a strong sense of community and purpose through art, architecture, and daily ritual.
The people of this region evolved a pragmatic, community-oriented, and sustainable approach to life and problem-solving. They had to, given harsh conditions and mountainous terrain. I accept that ancestry significantly influenced my bias towards the one-manual, mechanical action cabinet organ designed for collaborative use.