Dobson Pipe Organ Builders was founded in 1974 by Lynn Alan Dobson, the firm’s President and Artistic Director. In our firm’s thirty-four years, we have constructed about eighty-five new organs and have completed thirty or so projects involving older instruments. The construction of artistically-designed instruments that support vibrant church music has always been a high priority for the firm. Success in this field, which is extremely challenging because of the diverse nature of church music programs, has led to commissions from individuals, and educational and public institutions as well.
Although these instruments reside in very different surroundings, they share several constants. Mechanical key action is employed for all but the largest organs; it provides an intimacy not possible in other actions. By promoting a natural style of voicing, the associated use of slider windchests has a direct and beneficial influence on the organ’s speech and tone. The placement of the organ within a case helps to blend and project the sound, gives the instrument a physical identity, and protects the pipes. Careful scaling and voicing imbues each instrument with a distinctive and versatile character.
These few basic but essential constants transcend individual styles or customs. Though we are part of the ancient tradition of organbuilding, we are not bound solely by the practices of those who have gone before us. We have an obligation to understand the spirit of our own time, and to breathe new life into the old forms we have inherited. Though designs draw inspiration from the wealth of organ history, each Dobson instrument is a unique work of art for our own time, and is contemporary in the best sense of the word.
So it has happened that churches, individuals and institutions from every part of the country have made a journey to Lake City, Iowa, to commission instruments both large and small.
Most important to the success of each Dobson organ is imaginative and skillful voicing. The greatest thought is given to the tonal design of the instrument. Its prospective home is carefully examined and sample pipes are voiced within that space to guide the preliminary voicing in the shop. The voicing is then carefully finished during the installation of the organ, an exacting process that may take months.
The finest voicing in the world is orphaned if it cannot be controlled by an equally sensitive key action. Mechanical actions are carefully engineered to be light and responsive, even on instruments of great size. Electric actions still operate slider windchests. Stop actions, when mechanical, are controlled by traditional drawknobs or stop levers of a design unique to Dobson; they permit easy registration and are logically grouped by families of tone. When a combination action is required, noiseless electric stop actions are provided, actuated by reliable solid state equipment.
Our firm’s innovation in visual design and elevated standards of craftsmanship have been rewarded by citations from groups such as the Interfaith Forum on Religious Art and Architecture, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and chapters of the American Institute of Architects.
No less important to institutions spending great sums of money is the company’s fine reputation for sound business practices and timely deliveries. An extensive cost-accounting system aids the careful calculation of prices, assuring the most reasonable cost consistent with the high quality of the work.