Carl B. Staplin (1934 - 2014)

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Carl B. Staplin

West Des Moines

Carl Bayard Staplin, PhD, Associate of the American Guild of Organists (AAGO), died Saturday, July 12, 2014 at Taylor House Hospice in Des Moines, IA. A celebration of life memorial service will be held on Monday, July 21, at 11:00 am at First Christian Church, 2500 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA, with music beginning at 10:45 am.

Carl was a wonderful husband, father, grandpa, teacher, mentor, musician, artist, scholar, and friend. He was Professor Emeritus of Organ and Church Music and Chair for the Keyboard Music Department at Drake University, Des Moines. Carl was also Minister of Music and Organist Emeritus at First Christian Church, Des Moines. Before joining the Drake faculty in 1967, Carl taught at the University of Evansville beginning in 1961.

Carl's love of music began as a choir boy and acolyte at the age of eight at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, NY. He graduated from Amherst High School and Syracuse University before military service with the US Army. After completing his Master's degree at Yale University, he was appointed a research fellow at Washington University, where he received his PhD in performance practice and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. While working in the Washington University library as part of his professional research, Carl found a previously mis-attributed manuscript composed by J.S. Bach, a thrilling discovery. Carl received special post-doctoral studies in organ performance, musicology, and improvisation in France and Germany. While in Europe he traveled extensively and recorded more than 35 organs in seven countries. He studied the English choir tradition in a number of English cathedrals, and completed a series of five recitals devoted to Bach's organ masterpieces, a total of 44 works in all. As a recitalist and guest clinician Carl presented over 200 concerts and workshops throughout the US including engagements in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, as well as Yale and the University of Colorado, and internationally in Germany, The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland. Carl concertized under Phyllis Stringham Concert Management and was a touring artist for the Iowa Arts Council. Carl also was the first American organist to be invited to perform in the famed Laurenskerk of Rotterdam (The Netherlands).

Carl's recording of Bach's masterwork, Clavierübung III (the "German Organ Mass") was released by Calcante Recordings Ltd. This and other recordings by Carl have been heard on "Pipe Dreams," National Public Radio's weekly broadcast. Carl's doctoral dissertation on the chorale preludes of J.S. Bach was published in its entirety in a national organists' journal. Other publications included more than 20 organ, choral, and instrumental compositions released by eight national publishing firms.

For nearly 60 years as a church musician, Carl championed the organ as being the key component of the music worship experience. He believed passionately in the potential of music to spiritually uplift his fellow parishioners, and the power of creative musical improvisation to express one's faith. He was an active member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), for which he provided leadership as chairman for Region 6 of the AGO, comprising 10 Midwestern states; director for the AGO national committee on professional education (COPE); and leader of the 1998 and 2000 national AGO organ pedagogy conferences. Carl also served for four years as national collegiate organ chairman for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and was a member of the national editorial board for the American Music Teacher. In 2003 he was named a National Arts Affiliate and honorary member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. Carl was a Patron of the professional music organization, Mu Phi Epsilon, and an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. He also consulted for organ installations in numerous churches and institutions, and served as organist for the Des Moines Symphony.

Carl was a member of the Iowa Composers Forum. In recent years, his works were performed at Drake University, Iowa State University, Coe College, the University of Northern Iowa and the Iowa Composers Forum Festival. His choral works have been heard around the world; Carl's composition, O Clap Your Hands, was sung by the Drake University Choir and the Luther College Choir in several concerts and both national and international tours. Carl's compositions have also been broadcast over WOI-FM at Iowa State University on numerous occasions and he wrote a textbook entitled Make A Joyful Noise! - 500 Years of Sacred Music.

As a professor of music, Carl gave private instruction to 300 organ students and taught courses in music history, theory, and counterpoint. His students today hold leading positions in churches and universities throughout the US. They have been first place winners and finalists in state, regional, and national organ competitions. These include such prestigious contests as the national MTNA collegiate organ auditions, and AGO-sponsored local, regional and national competitions. His students have received grants to do post-graduate study abroad, and have continued their studies with leading artists in France, Germany, and England. Carl was extremely proud of and loved all his students, who became part of the Staplin family. Throughout his life it delighted him when his students phoned, wrote letters, and returned to Drake and First Christian, to share their music.

Carl was born on December 5, 1934, the son of Bayard and Anne Staplin. He is survived by his devoted wife of 53 years, Phyllis M. Staplin, Ed.D.; his loving children, Elizabeth Tausner (Eric) and William Staplin, Ph.D. (Ruth); and his five energetic grandchildren, Mena, Benjamin and Samuel Tausner, and Mary and Esther Staplin. Carl was predeceased by his brother, Robert Staplin, and his sister in law Jean Staplin. He was the uncle to his nephews, David Staplin (Lisa) and Dale Staplin (Beth), and his niece, Lynda Krueger (Rick).

Carl's family is grateful for his extensive circle of friends, which extended deep within Drake, First Christian, neighbors known as the '23rd Street Gang', and beyond.

Heartfelt thanks also go to the medical professionals at UnityPoint Health, University of Iowa Hospital, and Taylor House Hospice for their care of Carl.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Drake University Department of Music, First Christian Church, and the Des Moines Symphony.

Published in Des Moines Register from July 18 to July 20, 2014
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