Washington, DC area, 1947-1951; Boston, Massachusetts, 1951-1971; Hagerstown, Maryland, 1972-2010.
With Aeolian-Skinner firm, president; with M. P. Moller firm of Hagerstown, Maryland, 1972, tonal director, 1974; retired in 1990.
Gillett's musical interest started at age four when his parents began taking him to organ recitals at the Municipal Auditorium in Springfield Massachusetts. He started piano lessons at six years old with Dorothy Mulroney, organist at the auditorium. After moving to Washington, he studied piano and organ with Lewis Atwater, who was organist at All Souls Unitarian Church and Washington Hebrew Congregation. His interest in organ building also started with the study of the organ.
Gillett's first job was with Lewis & Hitchcock of Washington, D.C. Four years later he was hired at Aeolian-Skinner where he learned the art of voicing and tonal finishing, working under G. Donald Harrison and Herbert Pratt. In later years, he became a vice president and head tonal finisher. When Joseph Whiteford retired in 1968, Gillett was offered the opportunity to buy controlling interest in the firm, he then became president and tonal director. Major projects finished under his tenure included completion of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City, Trinity Episcopal at Wall Street, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Despite the successes, by this point in time, tracker action instruments (the 'Bach organ') had displaced the American Classic electro-pnuematic organ as the ideal at most colleges and conservatories, and many churches were following their lead. A consensus was reached within the company that someone who could build mechanical instruments was needed to lead the company in its next phase, even if electro-pnuematic organs remained their primary business. Robert Sipe of Texas was offered the job, and accepted it. Gillett left the company that he had worked for nearly two decades to make room for the new management, selling his controlling interest.
In March of 1972, Riley Daniels [President of Moller, 1961-1978] offered Gillette a job at M.P. Moller as head flue voicer. He accepted and moved to Hagerstown, Maryland where he worked at Moller for the next 19 years. After the death of John Hose, he became tonal director, and eventually a vice president. Gillette retired from Moller in 1991. He continued to live in Hagerstown after retirement. In addition to his musical pursuits, Don was also an avid art collector and he served on the Board of Directors of the Washington County (Maryland) Museum of Fine Arts. He died in Hagertown on Saturday, April 3, 2010, the day before Easter Sunday.
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