John Seng Obituary
 
By Brenda Warner Rotzoll

The nuns at his grade school had John Seng marked for a career as a classical pianist until the day he saw his first theater pipe organ.

He saw the console rising hydraulically from the orchestra pit, he saw the organist whipping his hands over the multiple keyboards on the console, he heard the thunderous, wondrous sounds.

"He said, 'Oh, my gosh, I've got to do this,'" said his friend and fellow organist, John Lauter.

Mr. Seng went on studying piano but taught himself to play organ and when still in high school would run out at lunchtime to play for an NBC radio show at the Merchandise Mart, said his old school friend, Donald O'Meara.

Mr. Seng played around the world on his own and as a concert artist-demonstrator for two of the world's largest organ makers. He played organ on television and in the movies. He was well known in the industry for his compositions and his arrangements of others' music. He recorded several albums of organ music and helped develop the world's first commercially available polyphonic synthesizer, for Yamaha.

"He excelled at imitating tonally the sounds and phrasing of the orchestra. He could play anything written. You could never jam too many notes on a page. His technique was unrivaled," Lauter said.

Mr. Seng was found dead of heart disease August 25, 2002 at his Rogers Park home after he failed to appear at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii to play the organ. He was 63.

He was born in Evanston and grew up in Rogers Park, reared by his mother and grandmother. He graduated from Loyola Academy at 16 and Loyola University at 18, then studied piano at the American Conservatory in Chicago.

He worked three years as a staff organist at NBC in Chicago, from 1959 to 1969 toured the nation as a product demonstrator and concert artist for the Wurlitzer organ company, and from 1969 to 1972 did the same for Chicago's Hammond Organ Co. Seeing him was unforgettable, as he hunched his 6-foot-6-inch frame around the console.

Mr. Seng wrote, arranged and and conducted commercial jingles for companies such as McDonald's, United Airlines and Greyhound. He did a special arrangement of "America the Beautiful" and conducted it for a noted public service spot on the environment that showed an American Indian weeping next to a polluted stream.

He recorded several albums of organ music, among them the Columbia album "Dream Awhile" featuring trumpeter Bobby Hackett that was used for years as theme music on NBC's "Today" show. He appeared as a guest performer on "Today," the "Tonight Show" and the "Breakfast Club."

His movie and television credits included music for "Magnum P.I.," "Nero Wolfe," "Kojak," "Alien," "Superman" and "The Empire Strikes Back." He appeared as a guest soloist at many concert halls including Chicago's Orchestra Hall and Radio City Music Hall. He played hundreds of concerts across the country and in Europe and Australia.

He moved back to Rogers Park in 1993 to care for his ailing mother, who has since died. For the last eight years he was the organist at Our Lady of Pompeii.

Mr. Seng redesigned and rebuilt the abandoned organ at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. Parts of a CD he recorded on that organ will be played at a memorial service at 7 p.m. Sept. 10, 2002 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, 1224 W. Lexington. Burial will be private. There are no survivors.