Alternative Venue Performance Spaces, Active Learning, and

Coffee Shop Collaboration

by Steve Panizza


Welcome to this entity I'm building, the Gorham Street Pipe Organ Company.


Milwaukee pipe organ builder John Miller and I got together on New Year's Eve at Five Watt Coffee on East Hennepin Avenue here in Minneapolis, just a couple of months before the start of the pandemic. We discussed all things pipe organ, particularly all that relates to a project we want to launch that repurposes my Op.1 into something that correlates well with our shared idea of an organ, with a sustainable cost of ownership, placed in an alternative space for collaborative use, and able to attract a more diverse audience.


Notably, Five Watt Coffee is a space that combines a coffee shop with an active alt-indie music performance space.

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I had thought before about merging pipe organ culture and alt-hipster culture. I wrote about it here after seeing two friends form a collaborative indie-folk group combining dance with music and performing out one night. I also discussed in the same story the possibility of placing a cabinet organ for collaborative use in an alternative performance space like an art gallery.


I occasionally work with the Product Design major at the University of Minnesota, where students are set up in courses to work collaboratively in teams. The education community refers to this method of instruction as Team-Based Learning or Active Learning, and to take it further, the apprenticeship-modeled Whole Task Learning approach. So, for example, the performance space John and I see an organ going into is essentially an active learning space where a team of musicians get together and perform using our collaborative pipe organ project as a performance hub. And like Five Watt Coffee, the ideal location would be a multi-use performance space where people come together to experience and interact with the art and performance going on around them.


John Miller and I are working on getting a project idea commissioned that rebuilds Op.1 into a sustainable tool for collaborative music performance. Select here to open the latest pdf version of our project brief.  The goal is innovative and worth pursuing.

We hope you think so, too, as you survey this site. Please spread the word and send us your support.

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