Humans of Harker: “Musica laetificat cor”

Jeffrey Fung channels creativity and peace through his organ playing


Erica Cai

“[Playing the organ] is sort of my creative outlet. I don’t do any visual art or stuff like that, so it allows me to experiment with different types of registrations. You can arrange entire orchestral works with the organ and still capture the entire character of the piece. That’s what is most compelling about the organ,” Jeffrey Fung (12) said.

Permeating the empty aisles of Grace Lutheran Church, the hauntingly beautiful melodies of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in F Major” flow from the 500 pipes of the organ situated on a balcony. 

The performer, Jeffrey Fung (12), sits with his eyes fixated on the instrument before him, his gaze shifting only from the sheet music to his hands and back again. The sonorous tones executed by his hands and feet reverberate across the church. He has been learning this piece for about two weeks, and although he is rehearsing, he plays the piece confidently. 

The serene and soothing atmosphere created by the organ’s untroubled tone helps Jeffrey wind down after a hectic day of school and extracurricular activities. 

“[Playing the organ] is very calming, and because it occupies so much of my thought process, once I get started with it, it’s very hard to concentrate on anything else,” Jeffrey said. 

For Jeffrey, the organ serves as a sort of “creative outlet” that not only contributes to his relaxed demeanor but also allows him to express his emotions on an artistic level. 

“Because Jeffrey is rather quiet, the organ is a great way for him to communicate emotion,” Tim Getz, who has been teaching Jeffrey the organ for nearly six years, said. 

Through his organ music, Jeffrey connects with both friends and family, sharing with his community what he loves to do as well as carrying on a family tradition. 

“The organ has definitely helped me foster appreciation for my family because my family is very musical,” Jeffrey said. “My grandfather, my grandmother and my grandmother on the other side, they all taught music, and all three of them played the organ at one point, so I feel like I’m sort of continuing that line.”

Jeffrey’s musical background stretches far beyond his career as an organist. He began learning the piano at the age of four. The piano soon proved insufficient in quenching Jeffrey’s musical intellect and curiosity, leading him to search for a new, more suitable instrument. 

“I had been listening to organ music for a while, and I just thought, ‘Why don’t I try the organ?’” Jeffrey said. 

Although similar to the piano, multiple keyboards for both hands and feet set the organ apart from its more widely known kinsman. This juxtaposition of keyboard over keyboard produces an extra layer of difficulty for the performer that requires dexterity. 

“You can’t look at your feet because you’re supposed to look at your music or at your hands, so you’re pretty much playing it blindly while at the same time playing a full two staff of piano music with your hands,” Jeffrey said. 

Although Jeffrey is proficient in both instruments, he prefers the organ over the piano. 

“The organ is just a much more versatile instrument,” Jeffrey said. “You can arrange entire orchestral works with [it] and still capture the entire character of the piece.” 

Not long after his first organ lessons, Jeffrey became the backup organist for his church and now plays at the beginning of services as well as during hymns, where he accompanies the congregation. Jeffrey especially enjoys playing Bach’s work, including toccatas, fugues, preludes and chorales. 

As for his favorite piece, Jeffrey finds it hard to decide. Right now, his favorite is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D Major,” a 300-year-old piece which has been a standard for organists throughout the centuries.   

“It’s a light melody and very joyful,” Jeffrey said. “It’s not only pleasing to the ear, but [also] from a music theory perspective, it’s complicated in terms of the chords.” 

Aside from his fascination with Bach, Jeffrey also enjoys playing free improvisations on the organ, because it enhances his ability to voice his feelings through the instrument and provides a chance for him to interact directly with the music he is performing. 

“Improvisation is this temporary engagement between the performer and the theme that he’s working on and not something that requires thought over multiple days or months,” Jeffrey said. 

Jeffrey’s intellectual curiosity spreads beyond his musical talent into his other hobbies, which span from soccer to Latin to classics. Younger brother Justin Fung (10) respects Jeffrey’s unbridled pursuit of the humanities, recalling the voracious reading habits of his brother’s childhood. 

“He went through various phases in middle school [where] he would read these really interesting books about British history and the Medieval Ages, all sorts of different subjects in history.” 

Long-time friend Kyle Li (12) credits Jeffrey’s contagious desire for knowledge for inspiring him to join several of the activities that the two participate in together, such as Quiz Bowl. 

“He’s a quiet and soft-spoken person, [but] he really gets his passion across a lot and he convinced a lot of people to do the things he likes,” Kyle said. 

Another notable quality of Jeffrey’s is his composed nature, a trait that friend Jasmine Wiese (12) appreciates. 

“He very much lives in the present,” Jasmine said. “He’s very aware of who he is and his role in his life, in the world, in his relationships and I really admire that.”

Jasmine, who has heard Jeffrey play the organ multiple times, also admires his bravery in choosing to play such a prominent instrument with no fear of failure. 

“The organ is really loud, so there is no room for mistakes, so I think having that confidence and the music is something that he moves with,” Jasmine said. “It’s a total experience, watching him play.”