Retiring organist finds creative energy in music

Bill Wood will be retiring after 23-years of playing the playing the pipe organ and has been a staff member to the music program at the First United Methodist Church since 1976.

Wood first learned to play the piano after his parents bought a piano, an instrument that his mother played in her youth. In first-grade, Wood asked the kindergarten teacher to give him lessons.

"I begged for the lessons. I wanted to play," said Wood.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

Bill Wood rehearses Sigfrid Karg-Elert's "Now Thank We All Our God" on the organ at the First United Methodist Church. Wood will retire from the church after today's service.

Wood started his organ-playing career as a junior in high school when the organist at his church fell ill. He continued playing for churches in Colorado and Oklahoma while he pursued his bachelor's and master's degrees in music education.

During his 34-year stint at First United Methodist Church, Wood created and directed the children's choir and started a hand-bell choir in addition to serving as the organist. He said that he stayed at the church so long because First United was his family church in which he and his wife raised kids.

For Wood, music is a release as well as a discipline. He said that it gives him creative energy in reading music and figuring out a way to interpret it as well as it being something that keeps his mind active.

"It's also a great joy. I do it because I want to," said Wood.

Jillian Holbert: Portales News-Tribune

Bill Wood explains the inner workings of the organ.

When he was younger, Wood would improvise music at the piano but found that during his teaching years he was learning pieces from the page. He hopes to rekindle the spark of improvisation after he retires.

After Wood retires, he plans on traveling the world and will still be directing the hand choir at the church. He said that he has mixed feelings about retiring.

"Part of it I'm really sad because I know I'm gonna miss it and it's something that's meant a lot to me," said Wood. "To paraphrase Barbara Walters, it's better to retire when people ask 'Why are you retiring' until people say 'Why isn't' he retired?'"

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