Three Strikes You're An Organist
Last Spring, I was at a press event for the NY Yankees. A bunch of us were invited to try the spring menu at NYY Steak (the iconic Yankee Steakhouse located in the heart of Manhattan) and then go see a Yankees game afterwards. Once my friend and I got to our seats at the stadium, we noticed that one of the journalists walked by with a business card from the Yankee's Organist.
I WAS IMMEDIATELY INTRIGUED AND KNEW I HAD TO GO SAY HELLO.
So we mosied over with our beers and introduced ourselves to the man behind the gigantic organ that was nestled in the corner of the Delta Sky 360 Suite. The smiling man sitting joyfully at this magnificent instrument was Paul Cartier, a longtime organist who's infectious attitude made me want to sign up for organ lessons immediately (hey, I do have 20+ years of piano lessons under my belt). We chatted for a bit, all while he would intermittently excuse himself to play an upbeat, playful, or ominous chord or two for the players and fans watching the game. It was like playing the organ was just part of our conversation and I loved it.
I was able to reconnect with Paul as opening day approached this year. Below, you'll find out more about the man who in addition to being an organist is also a FAA Air Traffic Controller as well as a South Hempstead Volunteer Firefighter/EMT. So the next time you're at Yankee Stadium, make sure to stop by the organ booth and say hello to Paul. He'll be there waiting with a smile.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU PLAYED THE ORGAN FOR THE YANKEES? HOW DID YOU GET THE JOB?
I started playing organ for the Yankees in the 2004 season after legendary Yankees organist Eddie Layton announced his retirement at the end of the 2003 season. I had been playing organ for the NY Islanders for several years so I was asked to come in for an audition.
FYI, I play at the stadium Monday-Friday. My career was as an Air Traffic Controller and I worked weekends and shift work. The many 1pm games created a problem as is covered two different shifts. So the Yankees also hired Ed Alstrom to do Saturday and Sunday games. Occasionally we cover for each other.
WHAT IS YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND?
I have a BS in Music Education from Hofstra. I began playing the organ when I was 9 years old. Then began playing in church when I was eleven. Still play church to this day. I also played violin from 4th grade through freshman year of college. I participated in the high school musicals and also Jazz band.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT YANKEE STADIUM? ANY SECRETS YOU CAN SPILL ABOUT IT?
I just love being there! Walking into that stadium day in and day out... with all the Yankees history. I love interacting with the staff there .. no matter if it's vendors right up to top executives. There certainly are some really good people who work there.
After my move down from the press box to the Delta 360 Suite I also have enjoyed interacting with the fans! We talk, take pictures, and I'll even have the little ones sit on the bench next to me and teach them how to play Let's Go Yankees...
I really don't have any insider tips..
HAVE YOU PLAYED THE ORGAN FOR ANY OTHER SPORTS TEAMS?
My first professional team I played organ for was the NY Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League at the Nassau Coliseum (1979). That led to me substituting at NY Islanders games. My 3rd year at the coliseum I began playing for the Islanders full time.. during the Stanley Cup years. I played there until 1985 and now I've been back there for the last 15 years.
I also played for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League (baseball) during their 1st Season.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN NYC? FAVORITE BAR?
I actually don't get into the city that much. But when I do i like a good steak. Del Frisco's is a great steakhouse.*
*Side note: I just experienced Del Frisco's spring menu and let me tell you...IT'S AMAZING. I was scooping up every last bite of their Tuna Tartare with Crispy Wontons as well as their infamous Butter Cake.
OKAY, NOW BACK TO PAUL.
No favorite bar for me.. Sorry, I'm boring.. lol.
WHAT'S THE HARDEST PART ABOUT PLAYING THE ORGAN DURING A GAME?
At the stadium, I would say that now I'm in the Delta Suite .. focus is a bit of an issue.. I'm inside and cannot hear or "feel" the crowd.
Fans are constantly saying hello.. Which as I said earlier I thoroughly have enjoyed. I have to work at listening for my cue as I interact with people.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO ON OPENING DAY? DO YOU GET ANY PERKS?
On opening day I always walk into the stadium...greet everyone with "how was your offseason?" It's always great to see everyone after that long layoff. I then walk out into the main level...and I stop and just look at the field. Take it all in and reflect on how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.
BEST MEMORY WHILE PLAYING AT YANKEE STADIUM?
I have two. When the Yankees won the world series in 2009. After the final out... again... just standing there taking it all in. Then an hour later being out on the field, standing on the mound where Mariano had just finished out the championship.
#2. Derek Jeter's last game. A fairy tale ending. Just amazing.
HAS PLAYING THE ORGAN LED TO ANY UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITIES?
Yes. I've been asked to make guest appearances for 4 opening days, when the Yanks opened on the road. I took an organ to Bristol CT and played all day on ESPN Sportscenter. They wanted it to sound like the ballpark in the studio. Opening day 2015 I took a keyboard in the Boomer and Carton show and played there for an hour and a half. Lastly, many interviews for both TV and newspaper/magazine articles. All fun stuff.
ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BE YOU ONE DAY? :)
Learn to play the organ?? LOL. There are not many organists around anymore. Technology has made keyboards that can just about play themselves. I pursued a job i wanted. I was persistent but not a pest. Finally, be NICE to people! You are certainly more apt to have people want to work with you.
WHAT'S YOUR LIFE MOTTO?
Better to try and not succeed, than to have not tried at all...