This section of the website put the other four in perspective. Composer, Teacher, Performer, and Impresario: How could a man accomplish so much while supporting and raising a large lively family on an Assistant Organist’s meagre pay?
The timeline highlights the most significant personal and professional milestones of Wayne’s life with links to family history as well. Underlying those sketches is a trove of documents providing considerable insight into his career, many not seen heretofore.
The work of Fr. James Junipero Moore, O.P. deserves special commendation. As a graduate student at Catholic University in 2012, Fr. Moore produced a dissertation Rejoice, give thanks and sing! The Complete Hymns of Richard Wayne Dirksen. He then did a full biographical study, An American Tradition: The Sacred & Secular Music of Richard Wayne Dirksen towards his doctoral thesis (2015). These two works, together with Wayne’s own annotated catalogue, profile the motivation, structure, and discipline underlying his musical, liturgical, and administrative leadership.
More recently Neal Campbell wrote two articles on Wayne’s life and works for the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Neal grew up in the DC area, was a frequent attendee at services and concerts there in the 70s and 80s, and brings special insight and enthusiasm to his work.
Describing his 1938-40 ‘gap years’ of study before going East Dirksen said, “I was my own disciplinarian. The habits of hard, self-directed work then formed have never left me.” Those habits were supported by excellent health, an athlete’s coordination and abundant physical energy in addition to his musical talent. They were also fueled by an enthusiastic temperament and life-long curiosity, all of which led Wayne Dirksen far from the chancel. As Campbell points out, he always worked several jobs both on and off the close.
Four ‘gigs’ are of special note: his work at the in-house radio station at Walter Reed Hospital in 1942-44, composing and directing Faith of Our Fathers for the Sesquicentennial of Washington DC in 1950, recording Bach’s complete Clavier-Űbung with Ralph Kirkpatrick in 1954, and producing the music for The American Adventure, a Bicentennial multi-media attraction.
What kept him at the Cathedral, though? By the early ‘60s major institutions – West Point, Oberlin Conservatory, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company – had begun sounding him out. Fr. Moore’s biography pp. 81-83 gives keen insight into these professional developments as well as the personal crises which led him to question, but ultimately continue, his work at the Cathedral.
But Wayne tells it this way:
The Dean phrased it beautifully when I was going through my adjustment period after I stopped working regularly in the music department. He said, “Don’t worry Wayne, I’m going to give you an organ to play on bigger than any choir or choral society or orchestra you’ve ever had. It’s going to be yours to use, to play on. I trust you.” And he has kept his word.
Interview in The Cathedral Age, Fall 1967
In 1998 Dirksen recounted his personal history and thoughts on music at the Cathedral for the National Cathedral Association. We have a later version of his notes but he tells the stories better in his own voice.