Capitals organist Bruce Anderson fired after 22 seasons

Capitals organist Bruce Anderson fired after 22 seasons

Bruce Anderson had seen his playing time decrease in recent years, but the longtime Washington Capitals organist was looking forward to his 23rd straight season entertaining fans when he got a call Tuesday letting him know his services would no longer be needed.

“I’m not bitter,” Anderson, 67, said in a phone interview. “I’m just sad. It was a great experience. They decided to move in a different direction, and that’s fine with me.”

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Anderson, who shared the news on Twitter and Facebook, said it was “impressed” by the response from fans, most of whom expressed disappointment with the decision. A Capitals spokesperson confirmed that the team will not perform live organ music this season.

“We are continually finding ways to transform the in-game experience, including having songs and organ prompts professionally recorded,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We thank Bruce for his contributions to the organization and wish him well.”

Hockey and organ music have gone hand in hand for much of NHL history, with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting a live organist at Chicago Stadium in 1929. The Capitals employed an organist at the Capital Center when the franchise debuted in 1974, and Ted Leonsis stood his ground. about keeping the tradition alive after he bought the team in 1999.

“[Washington Sports & Entertainment President Susan O’Malley] he doesn’t think we need an organ,” Leonsis said at the time. “I think we need an organ.”

In the market for a new instrument later that year, a group of Capitals visited Jordan Kitt’s Music store in College Park, where Anderson was working as director of education. Anderson demoed the organ for the team and was invited to play it in the arena during a preseason game.

“I’ve been there ever since,” he said.

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During his 22 seasons, Anderson prided himself on his ability to mix traditional hockey songs and team chants, including “Let’s Go Caps,” with classic rock, pop and more contemporary music. When the Capitals hosted the World Series champion Washington Nationals for a game in 2019, Anderson quickly learned “Calma,” the Pedro Capó reggaeton hit that served as the team’s unofficial clubhouse anthem during their title run.

In recent seasons, Anderson has played less and less during games. The Capitals hired a new director of game presentation before last season, prompting more changes, including discontinuing organ music after Washington’s goals.

“I don’t know if it’s a trend or not, but I think some of the venues want it to be more techno and EDM,” Anderson said, adding that he enjoyed working with the in-game DJ Capitals. “The only time I could play would be under Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A ads. Much of the creativity faded away.”

But Anderson, owner of the Lutherville School of Music in Maryland, never thought of quitting, at least not while Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was still playing.

“I was perfectly happy to do it, even in a diminished role,” he said. “I love watching the games and have watched Ovi throughout his career. I was hoping to retire when Ovi retired, and at least on my own terms. But they’re just not using the living organ.”

Anderson said working on the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park and the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals are among the highlights of his tenure with the team. He also fondly remembers the moment legendary play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick recognized his handiwork during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Capital One Arena.

“You know, they go to the trouble of playing organ music,” Emrick said as Anderson played before a showdown. “I like to listen to it from time to time.”

In the coming months, Anderson, who lives near Baltimore, plans to do something he has done exactly once in the last 22 seasons: go to a Capitals game solely as a fan.

“All the staff there, especially the game production staff that I deal with a lot, are good friends of mine,” he said, “so I definitely want to come and see them in action.”

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