Building a Pipe Organ
Machines are whirring as hand tools chisel away and shape the finer details of woodworking projects.
The natural sounds of RIT’s Furniture Design studios exist within an active environment filled with imaginative makers. Crisp tones of classical music joined the symphony of sounds during the 2020-21 academic year. The source of the sweet melody was a pipe organ handmade by Kelly Cleveland ’21 (Furniture Design) for his capstone project.
Cleveland began the pipe organ project in the fall. He paired woodworking skills with research and knowledge of other materials and disciplines to create every component of the instrument — from 90 wooden pipes to the keys and their brass hinges to the sheepskin leather valves to the mechanical action connecting the keys and pipes.
His blending of woodworking, metalworking and engineering came together to form an awe-inspiring crescendo that is hard to ignore, in both aesthetic and sound. The pipe organ stands more than 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. The mechanical parts are made of poplar, the keyboard is holly and ebony and the pipes are cherry.
Cleveland’s research and execution of building the pipe organ aligns with RIT’s strategic positioning at the intersection of technology, art and design. In fact, those areas are prevalent in both the Furniture Design BFA option and MFA program, said Professor Andy Buck.
“It’s a hybrid program that combines technology and technique with design and art-making,” Buck said. “It helps our students understand creative problem solving. At the core, whether we’re making furniture, sculpture or building musical instruments, really it’s all about creative problem solving.”