Milnar Organ Company Pulls Out All The Stops
BY MELISSA BUCHANAN
Milnar Organ Company pulls out all the stops, creating beautiful handcrafted pipe organs, while leaving behind a family legacy.
Tucked away on a hillside farm off the beaten path in Eagleville, lies a family owned and operated business that has made a name for itself across the Southeast. Milnar Organs has been embarking on journeys of restoration throughout churches for over 40 years, preserving or becoming a part of history along the way, through their design and fine craftsmanship of pipe organs.
At the young age of 18, Dennis Milnar found a job amongst economic hard times by holding keys during Christmas tunings at the Delaware Organ Company, in his native Tonawanda, NY. This would lead to a seven-year apprenticeship under the companyís president, Mr. Robert Colby. As Dennis moved through the challenges of woodshop, metal shop, leatherwork, and electrical wiring, it allowed him to hone his skills as a true craftsman.
Fine craftsmanship, artistry, and unique details are just a few words that define a Milnar Organ, while it was some of those very qualities that made the companyís founder, Dennis Milnar, fall in love with the creation of these unique instruments. "After one week in the organ company, where I could see people working with wood, leather, and wiring, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life," explained Dennis.
Dennis and his wife Connie, would later relocate their young family to Tennessee and start the Milnar Pipe Organ Service out of their basement in 1968, while only eight years later the family would relocate again to their present location in Eagleville; after much hard work had quickly established their business and more workspace was required.
Settling into its new and expansive workshop facilities, the Milnarís four sons, (the Milnarís also have a daughter who is a registered nurse), would work for the company, each specializing in an area that is unique and invaluable to the family business.
For many years, Milnar Organ Company has built an outstanding reputation, and a quite impressive portfolio, which includes the presence of their custom built organs throughout places of worship. This includes an original 1975 Milnar pipe organ belonging to the First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, TN, which has grown over the years with its own facilities and congregation.
After a complete redesign and a move into their new church facility on Thompson Lane, the new Milnar organ frames the beautiful stained glass windows and overlooks the sanctuary, with its impressive 87-foot ceilings. This project proved to be quite impressive, "and is now used by the Murfreesboro Symphony during their performances," explained Derek Milnar.
The Milnar Organ Company also plays a part in maintaining organs steeped with in church history, through restoration and preservation. "The oldest pipe organ we maintain is located at the Church of the Assumption on the West side of Nashville in Germantown," said Derek Milnar. The organ, a Johnson, is over 100 years old, dating back to 1895.
While most of these beautifully crafted instruments are used amongst congregations for praise and worship, the Milnar Organ Company had the unique opportunity of creating a pipe organ for a modern mansion atop the highest hill in Cool Springs, belonging to Cal Turner Jr., former Dollar General Chairman and Chief Executive.
"The biggest challenge was designing an organ that could architecturally fit well into a home that was already being built," explained Dennis Milnar. Spanning the first and second level of the home, the Milnar organ built for Mr. Turnerís residence was recently featured on the April cover of The Diapason, a magazine read throughout the pipe organ community.
An organist, himself, Mr. Turner was taught how to play by his mother and was also the organist at the Methodist Church in Scottsville, Kentucky for several years.
In a personal note to Dennis Milnar from Mr. Turner, he wrote, "Thank you for a wonderful organ project in our home. The result is a great joy for me." Mr. Turner furthered by writing, "Your whole family has my respect, admiration and love." Mr. Turner now enjoys performing for his grandchildren on his very own Milnar organ.