By Kate Thurston
---- — Her lifelong dream began at the tip of her fingers when she was only five years old. When she turned 11, Janette Fishell knew what she wanted to do in life the moment she started playing the organ.
“My mother signed my sisters and me up for piano lessons when I was five,” Fishell said. “My teacher was Mrs. Francis. Out of my sisters, I was obviously the most devoted to my lessons. My mother encouraged us to keep playing and wanted one of her daughters to learn to play the organ and I am really not sure why,” she laughed. “I couldn’t wait to learn to play the organ and when I started lessons when I was 11 it was the beginning of the rest of my life.”
Fishell graduated from Rushville Consolidated High School in 1976.
She went on to graduate from Indiana University and Northwestern University. Fishell is a recitalist, teacher of international standing and is Professor of Organ and Chair of the Organ Department at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, where she teaches a full studio of organ majors.
Prior to her 2008 appointment as professor of music and chair of the Organ Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, she headed Organ and Sacred Music Studies at East Carolina University and served Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Greenville, N.C.
“This is my dream job,” Fishell said. “I am so blessed to be where I am in life. I owe it to my parents. They always encouraged my sisters and me to follow our dreams and to dream big. So we did, and here I am now. Growing up in Rushville shaped who I am today. My family, friends, teachers and church really helped me along the way. I learned to be an optimist from living in Rushville. I learned to pursue my dreams realistically, one step at a time. I never thought what I wanted to do was unrealistic; some people on the outside may have thought they were, but I never did. Hard work pays off, you can’t be afraid of hard work.”
Fishell encourages people to chase their dreams and achieve them.
“If my parents were still alive today I know they would be so proud of me,” Fishell said. “My mother had such a big role in my musical development throughout my life. I have the job at IU that I have always wanted. This is such a privilege and by far the biggest blessing.”
Fishell has performed in many of the world’s greatest concert venues, including Suntory Hall, Tokyo; King’s College, Cambridge; Berlin’s Schauspielhaus; the Liszt Academy, Budapest; and the Prague Spring Festival. She has been a featured recitalist and lecturer at five national conventions and five regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists. In addition to a full schedule of eclectic programs, Fishell has embarked upon a 21-concert project, “The Seasons of Sebastian,” in which she is performing the complete organ works of J. S. Bach for the first time on campus and in the Bloomington community.
Recent and upcoming recitals include concert tours of Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe and recitals in the United States for conventions of the AGO, Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and numerous churches, universities, and concert halls. Fishell is looking forward to moving to Germany next year for eight months to study music.
“I am excited about being a student again. I want to be a sponge and just soak everything up,” she laughed.
“No matter what your age is you can always go after your dreams. Coming from Rushville, I can relate to so many people I meet and I am proud of my roots here. I learned to be humble and be resilient with setbacks because you are always going to have them.”
Fishell and her husband, Colin, live in Bloomington.
Fishell will have a recital at the St. Paul Lutheran Church, 6045 E. State St. in Columbus at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25. Admission is free.
Contact Kate Thurston at 765-932-2222 ext. 105.