- From the OHS PC Database, derived from A Guide to North American Organbuilders by David H. Fox (Organ Historical Society, 1991). Updated and revised by the editor using sources listed . —
Abraham J. Schantz (1849-1921) established a reed organ manufacturing firm in Orrville Ohio in 1873, the firm began making pipe organs around 1890. The direction of the company was passed on to Abraham's sons Edison (1878-1974), Oliver (1883-1934), and Victor (1885-1973); followed by his grandsons John (1920-2013), Paul (1911-1997), and Bruce (1913-2007). 1 The firm changed names from A.J. Schantz & Sons to Schantz Organ Co. and expanded from a regional to a national concern following World War II under the leadership of second generation builder, Victor A. Schantz.
The firm underwent a second transformation in the late 1980s with new tonal director Burton Tidwell refining the voicing, architect Eric Gastier providing new visual direction, and a switch to slider chest construction. 2 The current president is Victor B. Schantz (b. 1953), son of Bruce Victor Schantz, and great-grandson of founder Abraham Schantz. 3
Staff: Ronald Bishop; Raymond Bohr; John Cook, Sr.; Charles E. Kegg; Sylvester E. Kohler; Paul W. Lohman; Alfred E. Lunsford; James V. Madden; James E. Miller; Robert J. Muller; Robert C. Newton; Raymond Price; William A. Role; Bruce Schantz; Edison F. Schantz; John Schantz; Oliver A. Schantz; Paul Schantz; Victor Schantz (2 individuals); Jack L. Sievert; Ernest M. Skinner [see first Ortloff quote below]; Anthony Spevere; A. C. Strahle; Burton Tidwell.
"In 1947 the Diapason carried a most curious announcement on its front page, indicating none other than Ernest M. Skinner had joined the staff of the Schantz Organ Company as technical director. Skinner, at the age of 81, and by this time nearly deaf, was to lend his "judgment in tonal mattersâ€? to the company; in reality, the association was merely one in name only, and lasted very briefly, but it revealed Schantz-s growing presence on the national organ scene."
- Abraham J. Tschantz of Kidron, Ohio, established himself as a manufacturer of reed organs, opening his shop in Orrville, Ohio in 1873. The firm began pipe organ production circa 1890. The firm name was changed to A.J. Schantz & Sons in 1892 when Edison F. and Oliver A. Schantz joined. After Abraham's retirement in 1913, the firm was headed by Edison, Oliver, and Victor Schantz. The firm survived the lean years of the depression doing mostly service work, but remaining a builder for the few customers of the day. With all organ production shut down for the war effort, the firm made tool benches and ammo boxes during World War II. When production resumed after the war, the company was renamed Schantz Organ Co. in 1946. Under Victor A. Schantz-s presidency beginning in the 1940s, the firm expanded rapidly throughout the 1950s and 60s, advancing from being a regional concern to a national business.
When Victor A. Schantz became president in 1948 , the firm started its transformation from being a regional builder to a nation-wide concern. Schantz was building both larger instruments and more instruments destined for installation outside the midwest. In 1952 the firm announced the signing of its largest contract to that date, one that would stand as its largest instrument for many years thereafter. Schantz-s magnum opus, a dual organ with 153 ranks for the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey, was "certainly a coup as a major installation on the East Coast for a builder rarely heard outside the Midwest." (5) Schantz continued expansion throughout the 60s and 70s, building new instruments on both coasts. New Jersey, in particular became home to many Schantz instruments during that period with the Basilica organ as a showcase for what the builder could do.
The next sea change came in 1987, when Burton Tidwell was called as the new tonal director. Tidwell had learned the art of tonal finishing from Franklin Mitchell at while at Reuter in Kansas. From Lawrence Phelps, he took a new perspective in custom scaling, adjusting for each instrument in its enviornment. Tidwell brought these refinements to Schantz while at the same time, other changes were in the works: the Schantz version of Ernest Skinner's pitman chest began to be replaced by electro-pneumatic slider chests. Finally the organ moved forward from the depths of chambers with the newly hired architect Eric Gastier designing casework and visual displays of facade pipes. Tidwell himself summed it up:
"Thus, we had improved mechanism, more careful scaling and finishing, better layout and a beautiful face for our instruments. Within a period of 5-6 years, [the] ...company was turned upside down.â€? (6)
The firm is still family held, operating under the leadership of fourth generation organ builder, Victor Schantz.
1. James H. Cook, "Schantz" in The Organ: An Encyclopedia edited by Douglas Bush & Richard Kassel (Utah and New York: Psychology Press, 2006), p.492
2. Jonathan Ortloff, "Schantz Opus 2083 at Westwood United Methodist Church" One of Three lectures given for the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists at its 2010 Presidents' Day Event, February 15, 2010.
3. From an e-mail from Jeffery Dexter, Schantz Organ Co., received Oct 12 2015.
4. Ortloff ibid.
5. Ortloff ibid.
6. Ortloff ibid.
For more information on the Schantz family, see Abraham J. Schantz
- Suggested further reading (external link):
Jonathan Ortloff, "Schantz Opus 2083 at Westwood United Methodist Church" One of Three lectures given for the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists at its 2010 Presidents' Day Event, February 15, 2010. online at JonathanOrtloff.com
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