Rhonda Sider Edgington

It’s been inspiring for me to read the profiles of women on this site, and learn about the many

varied ways that others have found to create and sustain a life in music. I especially enjoy

hearing about non-traditional paths towards a fulfilling musical life, in part because my life

feels like it’s gone much differently than I expected. I don’t think we emphasize enough to our

young people that the things which make a life in music fulfilling, sustaining, and rewarding

aren’t necessarily the same for each person, and there is no easy path to follow – we each

make our own road. And that’s what makes it interesting!

I grew up in a musical home – my mother was an elementary music teacher, and my father a

college music professor, teaching organ, church music, and conducting. My parents also

shared a church job, so between all that, my brother and I spent much of our childhood at

concerts, and in church! Despite an early love of the piano, and a bachelor’s degree in piano

performance, I ended up at Indiana University as a masters student in organ performance,

where I gradually became comfortable with the idea of a life as an organist and church

musician, and grew to love the organ and it’s repertoire.

Following grad school, I lived in Chicago, where I filled my life with a number of musical jobs –

including playing the carillon at the University of Chicago, accompanying voice students, and

a part-time church job. My life did at that time did give me ample time to practice, pursue

personal projects of interest (a year of gospel piano lessons, for instance), and find out that I

actually enjoyed teaching, both as an adjunct, and as a sabbatical replacement. Life in a big

city was exciting, and I loved the opportunities to hear great musics of all styles, ride my bike

by the lake, and enjoy the ethnic foods and neighborhoods that surrounded us there. Finding

myself missing learning, and needing a new musical goal after a few years of this life, I

applied for a Fulbright to study with Harald Vogel in North Germany. My husband and I

headed off for what we imagined would be a one year adventure, but it turned into a seven-

year life change!

While living in Bremen, Germany, I constantly visited and played historic organs, including

many by Arp Schnitger. I had two different part-time church jobs, even directing church choirs

in German (an activity that had previously, even in English, caused me to break out in a

sweat…). I finished a German diploma in organ performance with honors, played many

recitals on a variety of instruments, joined the European AGO and organized and lead one of

their organ tours, and our two children were born during this time. We also found ourselves

very comfortable in Germany, with everything from outdoor markets, the bike-riding culture of

North Germany, the amazing train and bus system, to the wonderful instruments on which I

regularly had opportunities to play and perform.

Returning to the states in 2011 was perhaps as great a shock as moving to Germany had

been, though in different ways. We settled in West Michigan, the town of Holland, where

Mark was raised, and his family still lives. I now have a part-time church job here, am a staff

accompanist at Hope College, and have developed a fairly regular performing aspect to my

career, regionally, nationally, and internationally. It’s for me a necessary foil to life as a

mother of small children, in a small-town, and in a part of the country not known for fine organ

building, to be able to travel regularly – to play inspiring organs, and interact with colleagues

and friends. And when people ask me, “WHERE do you live?” I tell them we have no traffic,

my husband and I can bike to work, cost of living is low, and we live right on beautiful Lake


When I look back at where I’ve been, how I got here, and where I am now – none of it sounds

like anything I would have imagined to be a recipe for success. And yet, I count myself as

very lucky, and I still love what I get to do.

If you are interested in reading my standard biography, you can find it on my web site, where I

also have pictures from many of the instruments I love, and clips of my performances.

About Rhonda

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