FARMINGTON — Mitch Myler doesn't lack for pipe dreams - perhaps because he sleeps with almost 700 of them.

The pipes make up the heart of an organ acquired years ago by Mitch's father, Lance.

It's an instrument Mitch aspires to play as well as his dad.

A massive pipe organ might seem an odd addition to a family home, but for the Mylers it's a manifestation of their mutual love of music and a way to bring together people of many faiths.

Traditional pipe organs such as the Mylers' have hundreds of pipes that produce sound after pressurized air is forced through them.

The pipes are sometimes housed in a room behind the keyboard. In the case of the Myler organ, the pipe room is also where Mitch sleeps.

Working pipe organs are increasingly hard to find, with most churches now using electronic organs that mimic their bulky predecessors.

Lance said that his is one of only two functioning pipe organs in Farmington.

The other is at the First United Methodist Church.

"I was friends with an organ repairman when we lived in Michigan fifteen years ago," Lance said. "A church was replacing their organ, and they were going to throw away the old organ, a Kilgen built in the late 1950's.

My friend said that if I could get the organ out of the church, I could have it."

Knowing nothing about pipe organs other than how to play them, Lance removed the organ piece by piece and took it home.


"I spent the next two years teaching myself about pipe organs, and sorting and reconnecting the thousands of wires until I had put it back together," he said.

Lance has collected 240 additional pipes, making a total of 690.

The pipes generate sounds of strings, woodwinds and brass in addition to traditional organ sounds.

"Some of the pipes are absolutely beautiful," Lance said. "One set I collected was made during the Civil War. Another is from a funeral organ built in 1919, and still another, a trumpet set, used to be in Detroit's orchestra hall before it became the Apollo Theater."

The organ has moved with Lance, his wife Candy and six kids several times They brought it to Farmington two years ago after Lance took a position as an anatomy and physiology professor at San Juan College.

With two kids still living at home, Lance planned to wait until 16-year-old Mitch went off to college before setting the pipes up in his bedroom.

"We were going to keep storing the organ and pipes in the garage, but Mitch said he couldn't wait to play it and insisted we set the pipes up in his room right away."

The family built a platform for Mitch's bed in his eleven-by-eleven foot room, and moved the pipes in. The hundreds of pipes, which range from an inch to 11 feet, take up most of the room, creating a Phantom of the Opera atmosphere. The four-horsepower engine that powers air into the pipes is housed under Mitch's bed.

"Mitch loves tinkering with it," Lance said. "He sees it as a big engineering project."

The organ's keyboard is located in the living room adjacent to Mitch's bedroom. A large rectangular opening, covered in cloth, has been cut into the wall to allow sound from the pipes into the living room.

Lance, who has been playing church organs since he was 12, is the main organ musician of the house. Several times a year the family hosts hymn sing-alongs for friends from different churches.

"I like having the sing-alongs because we get people from a huge range of denominations," Lance said. "I think it's good for people to cross the denominational line and come together."

Mitch, a Junior at Piedra Vista High school who one day hopes to become an engineer, says the pipes block sunlight from his room. Other than that, he said, he's comfortable in a room crowded with hundreds of pipes.

"It's like anything else, you just kind of get used to it," he said. "I store most of my things in the closet, so it's fine."

Mitch hopes to one day learn to play the organ as well as his father, but for now he enjoys tinkering with the mechanics of the instrument.

"It's amazing to think that for hundreds of years, the organ was the most complicated mechanical invention made by man, and was on the cutting edge of what humans could build," he said. "I'm fascinated not only by the mechanics, but also by the history."

Even more meaningful than this, Mitch said, is the connection he and his father have as a result of the organ.

"Each of us kids have something special we share with our dad," he said. "For my dad and me, that thing is the organ."