City Council committee looking for way to keep Balboa Park organist

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A new plan to pay the salary of San Diego's civic organist with hotel room tax revenues will be examined Thursday by a City Council committee.

Members of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee balked at a proposal last month to pay Dr. Carol Williams' $28,860 annual salary from the general fund of the Parks and Recreation Department. Williams performs free public concerts every Sunday on the pipe organ at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

When the contract was introduced, Mayor Jerry Sanders had just unveiled his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which halved hours at recreation centers and libraries. Committee members asked staff to come up with another way to pay Williams.

One month later, the recreation center and library reductions are no longer being seriously considered, and it is now proposed to pay Williams from the Recreation Department's share of hotel room tax revenue. The money cannot be spent on general operations, but is used for activities related to tourism.

Scott Reese, the assistant department director, said there is a “solid connection” between the pipe organ and tourism.

Williams, who spends about 30 hours a week preparing and rehearsing for her hour-long shows, also receives money from the Spreckels Organ Society.

She earned a doctorate in music from the Manhattan School of Music and has performed around the world.

The organ and pavilion were a gift to San Diego from John and Adolph Spreckels for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the city has paid for an organist since 1926.

Categories: KUSI