Dieter Ruehle and the art of playing the organ in hockey (Puck Daddy Interview) (Puck Daddy)

Dieter Ruehle and the art of playing the organ in hockey (Puck Daddy Interview) (Puck Daddy)

Playing the organ at Staples Center isn’t just a full-time job for Dieter Ruehle it’s a passion and a dream. Since he was a kid, Ruehle wanted to blend his classical piano skills with his love of sports. At the age of 12 he got to play the organ for part of a Kings game at the Great Western Forum. After that moment he found his calling. “I totally fell in love with it,” Ruehle said. At the age of 20 he was hired by the Kings to play their organ and since then his career has taken off. Ruehle, who holds the similar role with the Los Angeles Lakers, has gone to five Olympics and considered one of the top organists in hockey. Ruehle and Ray Castoldi, who plays the New York Rangers organ,  went to the Sochi Olympics in 2014. While Ruehle, 47, has his usual numbers he generally plays, he’s able to improvise and shift his playlist depending on the game. When the Kings played the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 5, Ruehle played several Stone Temple Pilots songs as an homage to former lead singer Scott Weiland who died two days earlier. If the Los Angeles jumbotron shows a celebrity, Ruehle can think quickly and look into his catalogue of around 500 songs to fit the moment.  “It helps having a good amount of songs to choose from, especially when you need to be spontaneous like that,” Ruehle said. Those around the league notice when they hear music at Kings games.  “Dieter is one of the best organists in the league. Absolutely no question about it,” said Josh Gold-Smith an NHL news editor with The Score, who also runs the Twitter handle Organist Alert . “I sometimes call Kings games ‘Dieter Ruehle concerts’ because his playing is such an important and entertaining element of the games themselves. Dieter has a great sense of both popular and traditional music. He does a terrific job adapting to different situations and is always thinking about the Kings’ opponents. He’ll play the “Game of Thrones” theme, the Throne Room theme from “Star Wars,” then Journey and Tears for Fears and you’re thinking, ‘this is awesome, but he does this all the time.’ Then, he’ll do something timely like playing Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sour Girl” as a tribute to the late Scott Weiland, or “Brass Bonanza” when the Carolina Hurricanes are in town.” NHL organists all notice at how Ruehle hones his craft.  “Certainly his Twitter lights up when he plays “Game of Thrones,” said ‘Krazy’ Kyle Hankins , the organist for the Nashville Predators. “I t helps to keep up to date with current events and then go deep into bands tunes. I’ll do that and hope that people get it. Dieter does a great job at that.” We talked with Ruehle about the art of playing organ in the NHL, how he moved to the top of his craft and how he continues to be one of the standard bearers for organists around the NHL. What is the day in the life of Dieter Ruehle like on a Kings game day? I’ll do some prep at home, maybe practice for an hour or two hours. I’ll get to work around 2:30 p.m. and do some preparing and be all good to go before our 4:30 p.m. production meeting. What I mean by prep work is we have a rundown that sort of tells us what we’re doing in that game during the media timeouts. So I’ll mark up notes for that and be ready. Then we have the production meeting at 4:30 p.m. and we rehearse from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. and I’ll play the organ for a bit and off we go. Is there a go-to song you have? I guess I like to lean on the Throne Room from “Star Wars.” That’s one of my favorites, I guess being a “Star Wars” fan and all. I just try to play a variety of music. How does someone become an organist for an NHL team? Tell me your story. In my situation, I was interested when I was a kid. And I got a taste of it when I was 12, I was able to play at part of a Kings game and when I got to do that I totally fell in love with it. Then a few years later there was an opening with the indoor soccer team here, the LA Lazers. They hired me when I was 15, and that sort of got my foot in the door at the Forum. And five years later when there was an opening with the Kings, they reached out and I was hired when I was 20 years old and as they say, the rest is history. What is your musical background? I was a piano player. I took piano lessons when I was a kid, classical piano at age nine, and I was also a sports fan. Watching the games in person or on TV, I always noticed the organ, and it just always spoke to me and I was always very interested in what other organists were playing around the country. If you put two and two together with music training and my love of sports, I was like, ‘oh I want to do that’ and I’ve been fortunate to do that for all these years. What do you think has enabled you to rise to the top of your profession? You’ve carved quite a successful career playing international events and having many stories written about you. Well first off, thanks for the compliment! I try to stay current and always try to keep up with practicing at least an hour or two per day and I’m always open to thinking about, ‘would this fit at a hockey game?’ Or, ‘would that fit?’ And try to stay as fresh and current as possible. I’ve read you can play 500 songs . How do you have 500 songs memorized? I think that’s from years and years of learning songs. It’s just keeping track of them and writing them down and not forgetting them. So I practice them. I don’t know if 500 is an accurate number. It could be a little less, it could be a little more. I haven’t really sat down and counted it. I do have a lot in my little iPad notes. I read you once played the theme from “Rocky” after you spotted Sylvester Stallone courtside at a Lakers game. I’m sure knowing that many helps make you more effective. It helps having a good amount of songs to choose from, especially when you need to be spontaneous like that. I’m fortunate that somehow and some way these feelings come to me of, ‘oh that song would be a good fit here or there.’ Sometimes it happens accidentally. I’ll play something that someone can read into it and be like, ‘oh that was clever,’ when I didn’t actually intend on it. So it’s a little of both. You played Stone Temple Pilots at first stoppage of a recent Penguins/Kings game? Was that planned in honor of Scott Weiland?   You heard right. With the recent passing of Scott Weiland I planned on playing several Stone Temple Pilots songs at that first game after his passing – that Pittsburgh game. I try to, I guess if there’s anything happening in the world I can sort of acknowledge through music, I’ll definitely try to do that. Is there a song you wanted to play but couldn’t play? I think the good thing about playing a song on the organ is that you can play things that are more subtle. So if something might be a little out of place if it was the actual original recording, then I could probably get away with it on the organ. So to answer your question, I don’t think there’s ever been a song I’ve wanted to play that I haven’t played. I think I’ve always been fortunate to play what I feel is a good fit. I don’t know if you’re a fan of “The Simpsons” but there’s a famous scene from the show where a church organist plays ” In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in its entirety. I hear you sometimes start with it and then have to stop with it because play restarts or something like that. Can you play that song in its entirety in a hockey game? First off I am a fan of “The Simpsons” and I know the scene you’re talking about and I think it’s hilarious. I don’t know the entire 17 minutes of the song though. If I did know the entire song it might fit for the organ pre-game walk-in set. It might be funny if somehow there was a delay to play it during the game, but I don’t know if there’s ever been a 17-minute delay in a Kings game. Are there other organists you keep up with or talk shop with? I keep up with Organist alert on Twitter, occasionally messaging each other. I think that would be cool to do more frequently. I am friends with Ray Castoldi, the New York Rangers organist and we go back maybe 20 years now I’d say. We’ll chat occasionally and exchange stories and hear what the latest is in our worlds. It doesn’t happen that frequently, but it would be cool if we all talked  Is there one building you’ve ever wanted to play in? I have played at Chicago Stadium before it was torn down and that was an awesome experience. They had this pipe organ and it had six keyboards and I was told if you go full peddle and full volume, you could actually shatter some lights in the rafters. The pipe organ had that much power. And then the atmosphere in there, the way the building was built with balconies overhanging on top of the ice, it was such an awesome building to get to visit and play the organ there. That was a great experience for me. I played there in 1985. I was visiting and hooked up with the organist there and he invited me to play a little bit. It was after a game. It was a huge thrill. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY     – – – – – – – Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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