Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Organist Diane Bish Will Be Honored With Virtual Birthday Celebration on May 21

Bish is best known as the host of the international television series, The Joy of Music.

Organist Diane Bish Will Be Honored With Virtual Birthday Celebration on May 21

Diane Bish is arguably the most visible organist in the world today and is best known as the host of the international television series, The Joy of Music. This month she celebrates a milestone birthday and the world is invited to join the party via YouTube and Facebook Live on Friday, May 21, at 12:00 p.m. EDT. The event will be moderated by Across the Arts host Patrick D. McCoy. Miss Bish will receive live greetings from friends and colleagues including organist Paul Jacobs, Pipedreams host Michael Barone, and opera soprano Angela Brown. Others will make appearances via prerecorded video greetings throughout the program, and the show will intimately reflect on her life and career.

During the decade of bell bottoms, inflation, and the birth of the Apple Computer Company, a young, fashionista, female organist began making sound waves in the male-dominated world of the pipe organ. Diane Bish had already completed studies with Gustav Leonhardt at the Conservatory of Amsterdam courtesy of a Fulbright grant and with Marie-Claire Alain and Nadia Boulanger by way of a Foundation des Etats-Unis scholarship from the French government. With those credentials on her resume, her return to America in 1970 was watched with interest. She did not disappoint.

In 1978, she was christened The First Lady of the Organ by WTMI, Miami's classical radio station of that era, and the designation stuck. By the end of the decade, she had worked in tandem with Ruffatti Pipe Organ to design one of the premiere organs in America at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Consistent, rave reviews of her recitals were proving her prowess. She was dispelling all preconceived notions of how a concert and church organist should perform and dress. But, her biggest act was yet to come.

In 1982, she launched The Joy of Music, a weekly television show featuring historic organs in magnificent cathedrals worldwide. The show combined exhilarating organ and ensemble performances by world renown guest artists with inspirational narrative and exciting world travel. She brought the pipe organ, "the king of instruments," into the living rooms of America. Today, it is broadcast around the world, regularly reaching over 300 million people including its recently added YouTube channel viewership. This tremendous outreach to the general public on behalf of the organ and Diane Bish's longevity as a leading recitalist solidified her distinction in the world of music.

Many noted organists attribute Miss Bish and her program as the catalysts for their careers as performers and teachers. When the University of Oklahoma, Miss Bish's alma mater, and The American Organ Institute held a gala in her honor, Jeremy Wance, organist and former Associate Director of The American Organ Institute, remarked: "Everyone who is under 50 in the organ world owes a large part of their early awareness of the pipe organ to Diane. She's done more for the pipe organ in the last 100 years than anyone, as far as making the organ relevant and accessible."

Miss Bish's list of creative projects includes numerous published organ and choral works, over 30 recordings on the foremost organs of the world, including her album as the first American woman to record the four organs of Freiburg Cathedral. A signature line of digital organs she designed with the Allen Organ Company bears her name. The accolades are many. Only a few other organists can claim such a loyal and vast following and fan base, but none boast a 50-year run or Miss Bish's impact on the general public. The American Organist summed it up nicely: "Diane Bish is a worldwide ambassador for the organ and its music...We can be thankful to Diane for the many friends she has won for the organ."

Four ways to join the celebration on Friday, May 21, at noon Eastern:

Across the Arts YouTube Channel

Diane Bish/The Joy of Music YouTube Channel

Diane Bish, Organist Facebook Page

Patrick D. McCoy/Across the Arts Facebook Page


Related Articles View More Classical Music Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

More Hot Stories For You