John Nagy | January 23, 2017
Editor’s note: In anticipation of the dedication recital for the Murdy Family Organ on January 20, this is one in a series of portraits of the people behind the new instrument in Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Try to pin Greg Bahnsen down and you may need to wait a while. When he isn’t casting metal and fashioning it into pipes at Paul Fritts’ organ workshop in Tacoma, Washington, he’s often thousands of feet up in the air.
Bahnsen is a member of the Puget Sound Soaring Association, a getaway for gliding enthusiasts — pilots who enjoy the challenge of returning unpowered aircraft to earth while responding to whatever the atmosphere might throw at them.
“It kind of gets flying down to the basics,” he says. “No two flights are the same. It’s always a matter of, okay, I’m released from the tow plane, what can I do with the variables up there this time? That’s part of the fun. And then you’re out there where it’s beautiful anyway.”
It doesn’t take much effort to appreciate the blend of faith and skill that attracts Bahnsen to his favorite weekend pastime, or to see the parallels between flying gliders and the path he’s followed in life. Ask him how he became an organ builder nearly 23 years ago and he’ll say, without a second’s hesitation, “Well, God led me here.
“The road has been winding,” he says. In no particular order, he’s done professional electrical work, a little freelance photography. He’s been a nurseryman, a jailer, the head baker in a bakery. He spent 10 years in furniture manufacturing and another 10 in graphic arts and printing. “I’ve done basically everything in printing from one end of the shop to the other,” he says.
“I prefer design. But, anyway.”