Student feature: Dylan Thiele

What level of skill would a high schooler need to be for them to be considered a prodigy? Is there even a way to accurately measure skill like that? Maybe if they were employed for that skill, but expecting that of someone so young would be unreasonable…wouldn’t it?
It could be argued that there is a prodigy within our school. Dylan Thiele is a senior here at North, and he plays music professionally. More specifically, he plays the pipe organ for various churches all around North Dakota. Also, more notably for us Fargo residents, he often has gigs at the Fargo Theatre.
Even though I don’t know many other high schoolers who get paid for their talents, Thiele would reject the “prodigy” label. “I don’t like to say that I’m amazing. I don’t like to say that I’m necessarily good, because compared to other theater organists, I’m not.”
This kind of sentiment is both useful and necessary in the music industry. Stagnation is a failure in the cutthroat gig economy that modern music has become.
Despite Thiele’s argument against the ‘prodigy’ label, it may be dishonest to call what Thiele has as a ‘talent.’ More accurately, it’s a skill built through years of practice. “I practice every day for multiple hours, so for multiple hours, I figure out things that I want to do and […] learn how to do them,” Thiele said.
That shows the dedication that almost needs an origin story to explain. Well for him, it all started when he quit football. Cliché, I know, but there’s no embellishing reality. He was in seventh grade and his dad wanted him to be doing something with his free time, so he made him choose an instrument.
Thiele started out on the piano for no reason in particular, but then he started listening to the band Arcade Fire, specifically the album “Neon Bible.” This album features a pipe organ that the band bought an entire church to be able to use, and the sonorous chords of this instrument entranced Thiele.
It was a visit to the Fargo Theatre that finally solidified it. In 2018, at a movie at the Fargo Theater, Thiele recognized “The sound I was looking for. That’s the sound; I knew right there: That’s the instrument I wanna play.”
Fast forward six years and Thiele is doing just that. Many hours of practice have contributed to Thiele’s success. “I practice every day for multiple hours, I figure out things I want to do, and if I don’t know how to do them, I figure it out and learn how to do them.”
On an organ, there are lots of things to figure out. There are multiple keyboards, flip pedals, buttons, and tabs. The playing technique is different from other keyboarded instruments. “You don’t have a sustain pedal, so you can’t just punch a chord, let it ring, and then punch another chord. You have to hold that chord and then move it with your fingers as quickly as possible to hit the next chord, so your technique changes a lot,” said Thiele.
Thiele has played organs at a handful of churches in North Dakota, but the experience at the Fargo Theater is unmatched. “Playing organ at the Fargo Theater is something unlike any other instrument, ever. You’re playing in front of a crowd, but you’re not playing your typical church music, you’re playing songs that people recognize. So when people get into it and they start singing, like really really get into it, it’s just an experience I’ve never experienced at any church ever.”
While the Fargo Theater organ is a great experience, the Boardwalk Hall organ in New Jersey is the dream for most organists. “That’s just the biggest organ in the word, that’s an obvious go-getter,” said Thiele, who also aspires to play a few additional organs at San Phillipo State, Organ Stop Pizza, Organ Piper Pizza, and the largest theater organ in the world is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The career of a professional musician is the dream of a lot of creatives, but that also makes the field oversaturated. Finding a niche can help a musician stand out, like the pipe organ for Dylan Thiele. “I fell in love with [the organ] and I’m passionate about it. Just wanting to explore over those six years got me to where I am.”
Your dreams are within reach, and Dylan Thiele is proof.