Man builds pipe organs around the world

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) -- John Nordlie was able to move back to his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and make his very unique dream a reality.

“My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her I wanted an organ,” Nordlie said.

When he was just 5-years-old, Nordlie became fascinated with organs.

“I started thinking about organ building very early in life,” Nordlie said. “All through high school I’d go to the library and check books out and read about pipe organs.”

While attending college at Augustana, his passion for organs grew, but it wasn't something he originally thought he could do in Sioux Falls.

“One interim I traveled to Europe and studied organs with another professor from Luther College, and when I finished with Augustana, I knew that I wanted to apprentice, so I went out to New England,” he said.

After just a few years with the company, the owner asked him to become the foreman.

“Actually run what was going on, and I thought at that point, maybe I should be running it on my own rather than someone else's company,” he said.

That’s when he won his first bid to build an organ for a church in Appleton, Minnesota.

“I made arrangements and moved back to South Dakota and set up a little shop in my father's garage actually,” he said. “My mother and father helped me build my first organ.”

From there his business blossomed. His fourth major project at the Augustana chapel was one of the largest instruments he’s ever built.

After that he moved out of his parent’s garage and built his own workshop that has helped him and his employees construct more than 50 pipe organs all over the world.

“We've got a couple of instruments in Japan, a few in North Carolina,” Nordlie said.

All of them built in his hometown of Sioux Falls.

“It is kind of a dream come true; I didn't really expect to be doing it my entire life. I thought it would be fun to try something and move on, but the work just kept coming in and the work is still coming in,” he said.

Nordlie said business is still booming 41 years later. Right now he is building several organs, including one for the Sacred Heart church in Aberdeen.

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