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Church Organist
Marti Dodge plays the organ at France Memorial Presbyterian Church on Dec. 2 in Rawlins, Wyo. She was honored recently for her 50 years of playing the organ for congregations around the nation. (AP photo)

RAWLINS — Silence.

And then, a cascade of sound surged through the sanctuary as Marti Dodge plied pedals and keys.

Dodge, 73, has been playing the organ for congregations around the nation for 50 years and has often also functioned as church choirmaster. She settled in Rawlins in 2002 and is now a member and deacon at France Memorial Presbyterian Church. She was recognized for her five decades of work recently at the church.

“I think people worship in different ways,” Dodge said after she had finished playing “O Blessed Emmanuel” in the church earlier this month. “Some people will get it from the sermon. Some people will get it from the scriptures.”

And then, there are people who are stirred by music, sometimes drawn to a church because of the music.

Dodge is one of those people. She said that she has entered churches with skilled choirs and “would feel the Spirit with me,” she said.

She believes her music impacts herself and her listeners. “I know it means something to other people, but it means a tremendous amount to me because it’s my way of glorifying God,” she said.

Dodge learned to play piano at the Holy Angels Academy in Michigan before mastering the organ.

“The sisters could put the fear of God into you,” she said, chuckling, as she reflected on her days at the academy.

When she was about 16, and when her legs had grown long enough to reach the pedals, she began playing the organ. She continued to study the instrument at Michigan State University and later with an organ teacher in Syracuse, N.Y.

She later cut a zigzag path across the nation as she worked as an organist for churches in Michigan and Vermont, Florida and the Bahamas.

Dodge played for, but often wasn’t a member of, the churches she played for, which included Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist and Presbyterian congregations.

The experience strengthened her musical capabilities, Dodge said. Yet, her faith remained the same.

“I have a deep faith that I’ve had all my life, and I try to bring that to any church position that I’m involved in,” she said.

Still, Dodge added, that faith can’t easily be categorized into any one denomination.

That’s where music comes in. In her view, music is a “common denominator,” she said — an element that can transcends boundaries.

But, for Dodge, music does more. “It feeds my soul,” she added. “Music always has and always will.”