Walt Strony

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Walt Strony
Chicago, United States
Genrestheatre organ
silent film music
classical music
Instrumentspipe organ
Years active1974–present

Walt Strony (born 1955) is an American recording, consulting and performing organist and organ teacher, both on the theatre organ and traditional pipe organ, ranging from pizza parlors to churches and theatres to symphony orchestras.


Strony’s classical organ studies were with Herbert L. White[1] of the Sherwood Conservatory of Music Columbia College Chicago and Karel Paukert[2] at Northwestern University. His theatre organ teacher was Al Melgard, famous as the Staff Organist on the Barton organ at the Chicago Stadium.[3] When Melgard retired in 1975 he gave Strony his Oak Park, IL teaching studio. Strony later studied piano with Giulio Favrio of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

He made his public debut as an organist in 1974, aged 18.[4] During his college years he began playing the theatre organ in pizza parlors, a fad in the 1970s which gave new life to a largely forgotten instrument. For many years thereafter he was Artist-in-Residence at First Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Strony has studied with silent-film accompanists and has accompanied silent films for years, such as The Phantom of the Opera (1925 film) and Nosferatu at the Plaza Theatre (El Paso).[5]


He has performed in the United States, toured extensively in Australia (1978), England (1989), Japan (Expo ‘75 & 2011), and Canada (1999), and he is a regular performer at conventions of the American Theatre Organ Society. In 2012 he played his 39th ATOS convention, more than any other organist.[6] He played there again in 2008.[7][8] He has also performed for the American Guild of Organists on both local and national levels.

He has performed on numerous classical instruments as well, most notably having been featured in June 2009 at Macy's in Philadelphia (formerly Wanamaker’s) playing the largest operating pipe organ in the world.[9] He has also recorded on the world’s largest theatre organ at the Sanfillipo Music Room in Barrington, IL.[10]

In addition to solo concerts, he has performed with several symphony orchestras. In El Paso he played music including Symphony No. 3 (Organ) of Camille Saint-Saëns.[11] He played at the Calgary International Organ Festival with the Calgary Philharmonic.[12] Additionally, he has performed with the Allentown Symphony and Symphony Silicon Valley.[13] While in college he performed the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the Chicago Businessman’s Orchestra.[14]


In 1991 and 1993 the American Theatre Organ Society selected him as "Organist of the Year." He is the only living organist to have received this award twice.[15] In 2011 he was inducted into the American Theatre Organ Society Hall of Fame.[16]

In the spring of 2008,[17] and in celebration of his career, the Allen Organ Company developed the Walt Strony Signature Model[18] - the STR-4 - which is a four-manual instrument. Strony designed the stoplist and chose all the samples from their extensive library based upon his experience as an organist and tonal consultant.

Other work[edit]

His book The Secrets of Theatre Organ Registration (1991) was the first book to be written about this subject. According to the New York Times, this is "what many theater organists consider the definitive guide" to Wurlitzers.[19] TheatreOrgans.com calls it "The hands down best book ever written on the subject of Theater Organ registration. Get a copy of this if you can, it is worth its weight in gold."[20]

In addition to musical performance, he works as an organ consultant, most notably for instruments built by the Allen Organ Company. In collaboration with Allen Organs and the ATOS, he and four other artists recorded a five-DVD instructional video entitled “The Art of Playing Theatre Organ”.[21]


Walt Strony has made numerous recordings and can be heard on over 30 albums.[22] His first recording was made in 1976 at the Chicago Theatre, where he was the first organist to play that instrument on a semi-regular basis in 25 years.

Solo Albums

Album Title Instrument ©
Walter Strony Plays the Chicago Theatre Wurlitzer Chicago Theatre (LP) 1976
Organ Stop Pizza Presents Walter Strony Organ Stop Pizza, Phoenix (LP) 1978
Mundelein, 1980 St. Mary of the Lake Seminary (LP) 1980
Listener's Choice Organ Stop Pizza, Phoenix (LP) 1984
Down By The Riverside Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee (Cass) 1986
In The Mood Organ Stop Pizza, Mesa (Cass) 1986
A Walt Strony Concert California Theatre, San Diego (Cass) 1988
Innovation Allen Custom Digital Organ (Cass) 1990
Phoenix Krughoff Res., Downers Grove, IL (CD) 1990
Modern Theatre Pipe Organ Gilson Residence, Madison, WI & 2 others (CD) 1992
Berkeley! Berkeley Community Theatre (CD) 1993
Encores Vol. 1 California Theatre, Chicago Theatre & Mundelein (CD) 1993
Encores, Vol. 2 Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee (CD) 1996
Walt Strony In Australia Capri Theatre, Adelaide (CD) 1996
A Kautz Family Christmas Ironstone Robert Morton (CD) 1997
Walt Strony at the Alhambra Theatre Pipe Organ Ironstone Robert Morton (CD) 1997
By Request Aveni Residence, Gates Mills OH (CD) 1998
A Kautz Family Collection Ironstone Vineyards Ironstone Robert Morton (CD) 2003
Live Allen STR-4 (CD) 2004
Strony At Sanfilippo's Sanfilippo Residence 5/80, Barrington IL (CD) 2007
Theatre Organ Showpieces Aveni Residence 4/60, Gates Mills, OH (CD) 2013

With Others (CD)

Album Title Instrument ©
Pipe Organ Extravaganza 1 1996 Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet IL 1997
Pipe Organ Extravaganza 2 1997 Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet IL 1997
Simple Gifts Sanfilippo Residence 5/80, Barrington IL 1998
Pipe Organ Extravaganza 3 1998 Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet IL 1999
Pipe Organ Extravaganza 4 1999 Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet IL 2000
Just For The Fun Of It - A Cast of Stars Spreckels Organ, San Diego 2001
On The Air - TOS Australia Capri Theatre, Adelaide 2003
Wheaton-Fox Studio All Stars Van Der Molen Residence Robert Morton, Wheaton IL 2006
Fabulous Fox Organ Weekend Atlanta Fox Moller 2007
Seattle 2010 - Where It All Began Tahoma Studio, Maple Valley WA 2010


Album Title Instrument ©
Walt Strony In Concert Custom Allen @ factory (VHS) 1990
John Ferguson and Friends - The Art of Playing Theatre Organ Allen LL-324 and STR-4 (DVD) 2010


  1. ^ Walt Strony personal webpage. http://www.waltstrony.com/index.html Accessed March 1, 2013.
  2. ^ Walt Strony personal webpage. http://www.waltstrony.com/index.html Accessed March 1, 2013.
  3. ^ Walt Strony personal webpage. http://www.waltstrony.com/index.html Accessed March 1, 2013.
  4. ^ Walt Strony personal webpage. http://www.waltstrony.com/index.html Accessed December 22, 2011.
  5. ^ Doug Pullen. "Scary movies: Mini-fest at Plaza Theatre features horror classics". El Paso Times (Texas). October 28, 2011. Via Nexis UK.
  6. ^ Theatre Organ Magazine, American Theatre Organ Society, January–February 2012 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ James Barron. "Organist Fulfills a Wish at Radio City, at a Price". The New York Times. August 11, 2008. Via Nexis UK, accessed December 22, 2011.
  8. ^ Fr. Gus Franklin. "Radio City Music Hall". jackmoelmann.com. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  9. ^ "Wanamaker Organ Day 2009". NME.COM First For Music News. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  10. ^ "Walt Strony at The Berkeley Community Theatre" (PDF). The Windsheet (April 2010). NORCAL Theatre Organ Society. April 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  11. ^ Maribel Villalva. "Symphony to play with Mighty Wurlitzer". El Paso Times. January 25, 2007. Via Nexis UK, accessed December 22, 2011.
  12. ^ Bob Clark. "Organ show promises pop, pomp and power". Calgary Herald (Alberta, Canada). May 15, 1999. Via Nexis UK, accessed December 22, 2011.
  13. ^ "On the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ at Lincoln Hall, Walt Strony". Allegheny Riverstone Center for the Arts. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  14. ^ Walt Strony Facebook Pages, College Years Photos, https:// www.facebook.com/Walt-Strony Accessed February 17, 2012
  15. ^ "American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS): Organist of the Year Award". ATOS. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  16. ^ "ATOS Hall of Fame". American Theatre Organ Society. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
  17. ^ "Allen Releases New DTO Model". The Walnut Hill Gazette. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  18. ^ Deb Crowell. "Allen Organ STR-4 Walt Strony Signature Model". Allenorgan.com. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  19. ^ James Barron. "Organist Fulfills a Wish at Radio City, at a Price". The New York Times. August 11, 2008. Via Nexis UK, accessed December 22, 2011.
  20. ^ steamrocks (at yahoo.com). "Virtual Theatre Organ Registration". Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  21. ^ Theatre Organ Magazine, American Theatre Organ Society, January–February 2012 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ Compiled from publicly available sources, multiple Internet pages and ads, and several private collections.

External links[edit]