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.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in the Des Moines Register from Jul. 18 to Jul. 20, 2014.
Memories & Condolences
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32 entries
March 28, 2015
Dear Phyllis, I just now saw this and send my deepest sympathy. As you know, Carl and I were friends at Yale, and he turned pages for my master's recital. He was a fine man and good friend. Dorothy Young Riess
August 4, 2014
Dear Phyllis, Elizabeth and Bill,
I was very sorry to hear of Carl's passing. He was truly a wonderful man – a one of a kind. I must say he was quite an inspiration for me when I was his organ student at Drake in the early to mid-1980s. In addition to teaching me the organ, he also taught me to love the music of the great masters and the importance of my role as interpreter of those great works. We kept in touch over the years long after my years at Drake and appreciated the Staplin family letters you sent us during the holiday season. Thinking of you all during this difficult time.
Tim Pettay
July 21, 2014
Dear Phyllis, It was an honor and privilege to have known Carl, a joy to listen to his music, to hear a true master play the organ, and to have worked with him on Amahl and The Night Visitors presented at the First Christian Church some years ago. I knew I was in the presence of a gifted musician/composer and a gentle spirit, a humble and kind man, and a man of the highest integrity. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.
Sally Garfield
July 21, 2014
Dear Mrs. Staplin, Elizabeth, and Bill,
I am so saddened to hear about the death of Carl. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. He was such a kind and encouraging man. I am so happy to say that I have known him all my life. I loved going to church at First Christian Church and hearing his beautiful music. What an inspiration. I also remember his music at my wedding. It was such a happy day for us. I will remember him always. .
Mary Jo Mallon
July 21, 2014
Mrs. Staplin, Elizabeth, Bill:
I will not be able to attend the service today but please know that you and your families are all in our thoughts and prayers. Paul and I will never forget the beautiful music played at our wedding, thanks to Carl. He was such a kind person and will be missed by many. Love to you all.
Denise Cameron
July 21, 2014
I remember Carl from my visit to Des Moines with the Drogheda Brass Band in 1977. He was a lovely, encouraging man and I'm proud to say that I knew him, if only briefly.
Michael Maher
July 21, 2014
Dear Phyllis, Liz and Bill,
We were so sad to hear of Carl's passing. Although we only met him a couple of times, he obviously was a remarkable man.
Our thoughts are with you.
Love, Julie and Bob Gorn
July 21, 2014
I so fondly remember Dr. Staplin from when I was a student of Dr. Biel at Drake University. He was a most extraordinary musician and such a wonderfully kind man. I also attended First Christian Church and was fortunate enough to hear him play so many times both at Drake and at church. I extend my greatest sympathy to your family. How blessed you have been to have him in your life.
Lura Works-Wade
July 21, 2014
Dear Phyllis and Family,

Our sympathy to you and to your family in the passing of Carl. We were so sorry to read the news. We will always remember Carl's wonderful smile and interest in those around him; he always made us so happy to be in his presence.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

"Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time." - Goethe


The Chamat Family
Judy Chamat
July 20, 2014
My Dear Phyllis, I send my love and prayers to you tonight. It was an honor to have the opportunity to be a colleague on the staff with Carl. He was a gracious, kind person. He was truly a faithful, joyful minister of music who brought so much joy and depth to our experiences in worship. I will be forever grateful to you both for your friendship and for wonderful, enriching conversations and shared, uplifting music. Such a life-changing gift! My thoughts are with you, Liz and Eric, Bill and Ruth and the sweet grands as you share memories and music in these days. Love, Beth
Beth Dobyns
July 20, 2014

We just heard the sad news of Carl's passing late today, July 20, while returning from a long out-of-state trip. We will miss our good friend Carl and will be there Monday to participate in his celebration of life. He has always been a wonderful and talented man to spend time with. It was an honor to know him and we look forward to continuing our good friendship with you.
Harrison & Felicia Cass
July 20, 2014
July 20, 2014
Dear Phyllis and family,
Our thoughts of sympathy are extended to your family at this time. John has many wonderful Drake memories of Dr. Carl Staplin as his friends were organists in the studio! When Carl helped personally coach David Christiansen to accompany John on the Creston Sonata for Organ and Saxophone is one such cherished memory. He will always be remembered and his influence on students is legendary. God's peace on all your family at this time. John & Nancy Morgan
John & Nancy Morgan
July 19, 2014
I so loved and appreciated Carl's gifts of music at First Christian. I am blessed to have known him and know how hard it is to say goodbye for now. Thoughts and prayers, Phyllis and family.
Rev. Linda Lighthall
July 19, 2014
I was privileged to be a staff colleague with Carl for 18 years at First Christian. My lasting awareness of him is that he was as much of a man of deep and sincere faith as he was a masterful musician. Everything he did at FCC was for the purpose of enriching the congregation's experience of worship. I pray God's blessing of peace upon you Phyllis, Elizabeth, Bill and the rest of the family.
Rev. Jim and Kristin Ryan
July 18, 2014
Phyllis and family, I adored Carl and was incredibly saddened to hear of his passing. My visits to Des Moines were always made more special when they included a few moments with Carl after church. I know you are grieving his loss, but am certain of your faith that he is at peace. He was one remarkable gentleman, a truly gifted musician, and a friend. My thoughts will be with you in these next days and months. Sending you much love.
David Bobenhouse
July 18, 2014
Phyllis...You are in my thoughts and prayers. He has touched so many lives with his talents.
Martha Wilson
July 18, 2014
Mrs. Staplin,
I did a drawing of your husband while he played a Bach organ recital, Feb. 6, 2000 at First Christian Church. While it is not too detailed of him, you might like having a copy which I could mail you. My email address is or phone is515-664-3478. So you could see it ahead, just have someone text me and I will send a photo. Otherwise I would be happy to send you a copy it is in my sketchbook from that year. 8x11 size.
I am so sorry for your loss. He was an outstanding musician and person.
Mary Helen Grace
July 18, 2014
Phyllis, William and Elizabeth,
I am saddened to hear of the death of this lovely man. I have fond memories of the three of you from our 1982 travels in the USSR, and I join you in grieving this loss.
Gretchen (Olson) Beckley
July 18, 2014
Your in my thoughts and prayers.
Jim Rapp
July 18, 2014
David Rapp
Phyllis --

The entire Rapp family is indebted to Carl for his musicianship and friendship to our father and mother. I will never forget his coming to Evansville at a moment's notice to play for Mother's funeral. Dad was so grateful and so moved, as were (are) we all. Our deepest sympathies to you and your family. We so admired him as we were growing up in Evansville. His grace and gentleness taught and inspired us all. Please know that Carl will always stand in the pantheon of the Rapp family Hall of Heroes.
David Rapp
July 18, 2014
Dear Phyllis, equally matched, loving and talented partners in life. I share your joy in Carl's life and your grief in his passing. Heavenly music has welcomed him!! Love and prayers, Pam Thomason
July 18, 2014
The whole Rapp family remembers Dr. Staplin and family very fondly. He was a wonderful man and great musician. While at the University of Evansville, Carl and our late father, Robert Rapp, were close colleagues and friends, as were our families. In fact Dad conducted "Oh Clap Your Hands" with the UE choir many times and I have posted the recording of it on under the UE chapter. Our deepest condolences to Phyllis and the whole Staplin family.
John Rapp
July 18, 2014
Phyllis and family - our deepest sympathy goes to you and all your family. You will be in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time. We are so sorry for your loss.

Allen, Gail, Josh and Jen Zagoren
July 18, 2014
Carl was a gracious colleague in the AGO and I always looked up to him. I know that he will be greatly missed. My condolences to you.
Ann Labounsky
July 18, 2014
Dear Phyllis and family: Kevin and I are so very sad to hear of Dr. Staplin's passing. He was a pillar in our son Chirstopher's life since Dr. Staplin took him as a student at age 13. He tought our son how to be true to his conviction and love of music. Today our son holds a d Phd and instructs music at the collegiate level. We will forever hold you and your family in our hearts and prayers.
Mary Krampe
July 17, 2014
We are so deeply saddened to learn the news of Dr. Staplin's passing. He will always hold a very special place in our hearts. When he played this piece (our favorite)

Toccata (Fifth Symphony) by Widor, it was always so joyful, powerful and uplifting and you just knew you were in the presence of greatness. Our heartfelt sympathy to all.
The Sucher Family
The Sucher Family Sucher
July 17, 2014
Dear Phyllis and family,
We're so sorry to learn of Carl's passing. He was a true gentleman, devoted husband and father, scholar and a true friend to many the world over. We will long cherish his friendship and memory. We will be out of the city and will miss his services, but please know our hearts and prayers are with you.

Jim& Betty Wise
July 17, 2014
With sympathy to Carl's family and a measure of gratitude for composing and playing world class organ music. Carl's support for Phyllis's teaching at Drake was never ending.
Education Dean Jan McMahill
July 17, 2014
Dear Phyllis and family: I am so very sorry to hear this news. Certainly Carl touched the world, and ours, with his music. When our daughter (age 7) sang with the Des Moines Children's Choir he was playing and conducting (if I am correct) in the performance of Carmina Burana on Drake's campus. Our daughter is now a physician and his influence is endless. Your Drake colleage and friend,
Dr. Sally Beisser
Sally Beisser
July 17, 2014
Phyllis, Elizabeth and Bill:
Ray and I were saddened to hear of Carl's death. Our prayers are certainly with you all. We have fond memories of our time at FCC and especially Carl's wonderful postludes!
Ray & Sheryl Fancher
July 17, 2014
Phyllis, Elizabeth and Bill,

We are so saddened by the news of Carl's passing. Please accept our deepest sympathy.
Harold and Mona Holmstrom
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