Organ appears in Platt-West, baffles students, provokes search for owner

Photo of Leo Bernstein Newman playing the organ
J Frank / The Mossy Log

On Feb. 8, a Lowrey Jubilee LC-30 organ mysteriously appeared in a Visual and Performing Arts LLC lounge. 

A few weeks later, the door to the lounge was locked due to the unknown identity of the organ’s owner, leaving many students confused and frustrated that they could no longer use the lounge and play the organ, as well as bemused by the sequence of events. Around a week ago, the room was suddenly reopened. Here, for the first time, is the full story of the orphaned organ, from the perspective of VAPA Area Director Julia Pacheco-Cole.

Room 018, the lounge in question, is a converted dorm room in the basement level of Platt West to which Pacheco-Cole has been adding furniture since the start of the year, hoping to create an alternative community space, especially given the conversion of two out of three hall lounges into four-person dorms this year. 

Resident Advisor (RA) Mack Wille first noticed the organ in 018 while doing their nightly rounds and reported it to Pachec-Cole via Slack message. 

“hey Julia! non pressing – just letting you know. there is …uh.. an entire organ in 018?? like the instrument?? like students moved an entire organ into 018???” the message read.

Normally, Pacheco-Cole said, when a personal belonging is left in a common area, it is moved to the lost and found to keep it safe until its owner can reclaim it, but for obvious reasons this was not actionable for the organ. Pacheco-Cole told her RAs to keep an eye on the organ and ask anyone playing it if they knew who had brought it in. 

This yielded no results and after a few weeks Pacheco-Cole felt that she needed to take further measures, both because she felt responsible for the organ’s safety if it was an unknown student’s personal property and because she thought that if there was going to be a community organ in the lounge, someone needed to be accountable for it — she wanted to find the owner so that they could establish guidelines around the organ’s use which remained in line with community agreements such as quiet hours. 

On Feb. 17, Pacheco-Cole sent an email to VAPA residents, asking for any leads on the person responsible for the organ, but received no responses. Assuming that the person responsible for the organ would not come forward, as over a week had passed since the email, Pacheco-Cole decided to take stronger action: on Feb. 27, the door to 018 was locked, with a paper sign taped to it, declaring the organ as the reason and again pleading for the resident who had left the organ to come forward.

According to Pacheco-Cole, an unknown number of students reacted strongly to her decision to lock the door. When pressed, she said that this criticism came mainly in the form of “passive aggressive” messages written on her sign. She would not repeat the exact content of any of the messages, instead shifting uncomfortably in her chair, but they had clearly affected her. Despite this, she acknowledged residents’ frustration. 

“People got upset, which is totally fair,” Pacheco-Cole said. “We have limited lounges in Platt, and people used that space. I think that people thought that it was a punishment, or just expressed frustration. I don’t like limiting free speech, so for the most part I just let the signs be.”

Thanks to the abused sign, Pacheco-Cole received two emails, on Feb. 27 and March 6, from students who said they knew who was responsible for the organ, but would not reveal the student’s identity. Pacheco-Cole guessed that the responders were likely worried that the responsible student would face consequences for the organ, despite Pacheco-Cole’s assurance in the email that this was not a violation, and that she just wanted to talk. 

Finally on March 10, Kyle Gunderson ’26 contacted Pacheco-Cole, revealing himself as the responsible party. Pacheco-Cole arranged a meeting with Gunderson, where he explained that he had found the organ for free on craigslist and thought it would be a good addition to the VAPA lounge, so he enlisted the help of some friends to bring the organ into 018.

When asked why Gunderson had been so reticent about admitting his identity, Pacheco-Cole said that he was afraid he would be asked to remove it, though this was not her intention. The organ is now considered a donation to VAPA. Pacheco-Cole has posted a sign about quiet hours above the organ and said that she will continue to work with upstairs residents regarding volume management. 

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