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Play It Again, Juan Cardona

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 9.24.56 AMI grew up playing the piano and also the organ as a kid in Indiana, but I never even came close to being an accomplished player like Juan Cardona, Jr. of Newtown, Connecticut, now here’s a guy who has a real passion for this kind of music.  Juan showed me his musical chops at the beautiful Thomaston Opera House building 1884 in Thomaston, Connecticut and it was an amazing experience, the place shook, the kind of thing that gives you goose bumps.

Juan was the staff organist for the venue for 17 years until it closed recently. The dream is that the Opera House will reopen on a full time basis again and Juan will then continue to rock the house.

Juan started playing the piano at about age seven and then took on the organ as well and went on to study classical organ at the University of Connecticut. By day he’s a Network System Engineer in the Information Technology field, the rest of the time he’s out playing. He considers himself to be a professional hobbyist when it comes to playing the theater organ. I have a lot of hobbies too but Juan has taken his passion to whole other level.

While the  Thomaston Opera House waits to reopen full time, Juan plays from time to time at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, New York. He does concerts there and also plays alongside silent films, just like the old days of Hollywood where the music was the lead in those pictures, or at the very least a co-star.

Through my  meeting with Juan, I was introduced to the Connecticut Valley Theatre Organ Society, they’re a part of the American Theatre Organ Society. I did not know anything about this non-profit, but I do now, what a fabulous group this is. Click on the links above and look at the shows that are going on, you might like to add some of these to your calendar. The ATOS has experts on board that know anything and everything about theater organs, how they’re built, how they have to be maintained, the history of the music, you get the picture.

I got a behind the scenes look at what the organ pipes look like in this theater, from tiny pencil-thin tubes to others many feet long. What I learned is that is takes a real expert to keep this instrument in fine playing shape.

So there’s the build up, now sit back and listen to a medley of theater music below on a Marr and Colton organ (America’s Finest Organ). Juan begins with his favorite song to play which is Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” then to some Tommy Dorsey and finally Chattanooga Choo Choo. Enjoy. Oh, and thanks Juan for a great performance.


 

18 Comments

  1. joe s
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Bravo, Juan! Bravo, Ann! (You’ve become quite the videographer.)

  2. Ann Nyberg
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Well, Joe thank you so much, this was great fun meeting the dynamic Juan and seeing the beautiful Thomaston Opera House, what a gem this place is, just beautiful!

  3. Posted November 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Juan Cardona has performed twice at the Stadium Theatre. He played the Wurlitzer during our 1926 silent film presentation of Phantom of the Opera last October and this October performed to the silent film classic Nosferatu. He not only plays the Wurlitzer along with the film but gets the audience psyched up to participate with oooohs and aaaaahs for the good guys and the bad guys during the films. The first year we had 200 this year we had 400. The audience demographic ranges from youth to the elderly. It’s amazing how he has taken a historical film and turned it into a hot cult event. Our audience is crazy for him. We certainly will have him back each year. He is not only a talented professional but an absolute sweetheart to work with!

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Cathy, thanks so much for reading the story about Juan. What a gem he is, I can just imagine how he holds an audience captive, I’ll see that for myself coming up in early December when I head up to the Thomaston Opera House for one of his performances.

  4. Ana Baldioceda
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    As as class mate of Juan Cardona Senior (just had our 50th reunion) I feel very proud of Juan Jr.’s achievements. We have watched some of his concerts on the Internet, simply amazing.

    Congratulations Juan.

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Ana, it was my pleasure to spot light Juan Jr., he is amazingly talented.

  5. Matt
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Juan works on my team as a network engineer and it’s so nice to be able to see his true passion with music. This was a great read about a great guy! Congratulations Juan!

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 18, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Matt, thanks for reading the post about Juan, it was such a pleasure to hear him play, just marvelous!

  6. Posted November 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful article and recording. Juan is a wonderful musician..and a really nice guy as well! Loved seeing this.
    Kathryn Taubert

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Kathryn, thanks so much for reading about Juan, I just listened to some of your music, and it is wonderful you have a beautiful voice. Florida is lucky to have you.

  7. Ambassador Elena Wachong
    Posted November 20, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Costa Rica has amazing and talented people (Astronaut Franklin Chang among them) and it is wonderful to know that our work ethic and strong family values continue to produce such exceptional and gifted young men, even in the USA!

    We are extremely proud of the Cardona family and are overjoyed that we can share Juan´s passion for music through the Internet! Many thanks to Juan and Ann for bringing this to the attention of others who can enjoy Juan´s performances!

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 20, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Ambassador Wachong, I am so thrilled that you could read about Juan Cardona, Jr. here. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting your beautiful country, but it is on my list to do so. Thanks again for your kind words.

  8. lee stadele
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Juan is the best…….wow can he play!

    Lee Stadele Bravo!

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Lee, thanks for reading, I know isn’t he good?

  9. Ron Carter
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed the article and video. I am a friend of Juan’s and fellow theatre organist, member of the Atlanta Chapter of ATOS. This was the first time I had heard the Marr and Colton in the Opera house. Great sounding instrument and great player!! Congratulations!

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Ron, thanks so much for your comments, I have so enjoyed meeting Juan and listening to him play, he realy is fabulous.

  10. John Vanderlee
    Posted December 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I am the curator of the Bardavon Wurlitzer organ in Poughkeepsie, NY.

    No one else has made that organ his own as much as Juan does. Back in the 80’s we only dreamed of how the organ could sound when we started restoring it. Every time Juan plays it’s a dream come true all over again.

    We are so lucky that he lives (relatively) close!

    John

    • Ann Nyberg
      Posted December 4, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      John you hit that on the head, Juan is amazing!!!