New organist playing vintage St. Anthony organ

Dakota Bennett prepares to practice for the Saturday evening Mass at St. Anthony Parish in Wichita. The WSU student is one of the new organists for the parish. (Advance photo)

Dakota Bennett started playing piano at an older age than most children, but he has made up for his delay.

Bennett is the new Saturday evening organist at St. Anthony Church in Wichita, one of two who play at the historic downtown Wichita church.

Ezma Maust, a piano teacher who played until her death at 102, introduced Bennett to the keyboard years before he was able to begin taking lessons at age 12 from Dana Spurgeon, the pianist in Bennett’s home church.

His keyboard of choice evolved three years later after he took part in a week-long Pipe Organ Encounter sponsored by the American Guild of Organists at Wichita State University.

“I met Shirley Wiebe – she was my assigned teacher for the week – and I continued studying with her through high school,” he said, adding that he is now studying with Lynne Davis as an organ performance major at WSU with plans to graduate in the spring.

Wiebe is the organist at Church of the Magdalen in Wichita.

Bennett knows more about the organ than just the manuals on the console. He worked in early 2021 with Luke Headley, an organ technician and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Wichita, to install an organ formerly played at Mount Carmel Academy in Wichita, in Headley’s parish church. “That was our pandemic project,” Bennett said.

Organ installation centennial in 2022

St. Anthony’s organ, an 1886 Hinners, is the oldest functioning organ in the city, he said.
Camilla Hartman, the parish historian, said the organ replaced the original, much smaller non-electric pump organ that required one of the choir members to manually pump.

The Feb. 18, 1922, Catholic Advance had a brief article announcing that the parish had received plans for St. Anthony’s new organ and that its cost was going to be $4,500. The May 27, 1922, Catholic Advance includes a story about a Sunday, May 21, well-attended recital of St. Anthony’s new organ – despite a huge thunderstorm that caused local flooding.

Bennett, a history minor and avid historian, is a volunteer at the Old Cowtown Museum and the Kansas Aviation Museum, and is a piano accompanist for the West High School choirs.

Jennifer Harp plays the organ for the parish on Sunday mornings.