Cubs organist Gary Pressy retired at the end of the 2019 season, having set a consecutive-game record that will likely never be broken:
The Cubs auditioned quite a number of people to succeed Pressy; I wrote about this back in January when some of the auditions were heard from the streets surrounding the ballpark.
During the season-ticket holder meeting with Cubs executives Thursday, it was revealed that the team had hired not one, but three organists who will begin playing when baseball resumes at Wrigley Field, and that one of them would be having a practice session between 5 and 6 p.m. Friday that would be heard not only in the empty ballpark, but in the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley.
John Benedeck is the man whose organ playing was heard Friday afternoon and he’ll be one of the three to succeed Gary Pressy. Benedeck is a lifelong Cubs fan who grew up in the northwest suburbs. He began playing piano when he was six years old, taking lessons from a neighbor. He attended Western Illinois University where he studied broadcast production and took on the role of PA announcer and organist for several varsity sports. Now he enjoys playing piano at weddings and bars and leads worship at his church.
The Cubs sent me this video of Benedeck’s playing Friday afternoon.
John Benedeck’s playing style is different from Gary Pressy’s, to be sure, but I am certain we’ll learn to embrace hearing it when baseball returns to Wrigley.
Pres Maxson was the organist whose audition we happened to catch back in January. I learned this because he saw my January article and emailed me asking if I’d send him the sound files, which I did. I asked him if he’d be willing to share his audition experience with us. Here’s what he told me:
After the World Series, I sent my resume to Fan Services. They immediately responded, saying that they weren’t hiring for an organist. But someone in Fan Services forwarded my email to HR. About two weeks later, they reached out, saying my resume looked good, and they offered me a chance to apply through a non-public link. Later, I think they did make the link public.
So I applied online, and about two weeks after that, I got an invitation to submit a short video audition. Two days after I did that, I got a call to schedule a phone interview with the hiring manager. He and I had a nice chat, and at this point, I just really hoped I’d have the opportunity to come to Wrigley and play on the actual organ. Well, that dream came true when I was invited to do just that — this was the Friday before Christmas. That day, I first interviewed in person at the Cub offices, then I spent about an hour and a half playing in the park. It was truly fun, and I really liked everyone I met. They gave me a short tour of the press box. We ran pregame twice. I got my picture taken at the organ. And then it was over.
The holidays came and went, and I was beginning to think that was going to be it. But at the end of January, I got a call to come back to Wrigley. The second visit was far more comprehensive. I spent the majority of the day playing the organ in the park (only a small part was broadcast live to the neighborhood; that’s what was in your article). The hiring team took me to lunch, and we spent all afternoon running through a long setlist of songs (think everything from Go Cubs Go to local fight songs, to military anthems, “Bear Down,” Star Wars, Sesame Street, the Olympics themes, music that could be specific to each player, etc.). Honestly, the song list that day was extremely long, and I think they gave it to me with less than 24 hours notice on purpose. Whoever got the job would need to be able to turn anything around in a matter of hours (sometimes minutes).
I got the call in early March that I’d finished as a finalist, but they’d filled the position. It’s safe to say I was disappointed — but not too much. I got to spend several hours playing organ in Wrigley Field. It’s truly once-in-a-lifetime when a childhood dream like that comes true. Everyone I met was very kind. They were the type of team I could see really enjoying working with. It’s hard to look back at the entire experience with anything other than love for the Cubs and gratitude for getting to have the experience.
I’m looking forward to being back in Wrigley (aren’t we all!), hearing the new organists, and enjoying a game with an Old Style in hand.
Thanks to Pres Maxson for sharing this with us. Sounds pretty cool.
BCB’s Sara Sanchez was in the neighborhood near the ballpark Friday afternoon taking in John Benedeck’s organ playing. She’ll have more on this from that perspective coming up in her Sara’s Diary daily entry this afternoon.
Here’s another photo of John Benedeck at the Wrigley Field organ.
Many thanks to Ariana Moaveni of the Cubs for the photos and video.