Albany as his temporary hometown

graham schultz all saints cathedral

By Casey Normile

When Graham Schultz first learned he would be moving to Albany, the Cathedral of All Saints organ fellow says all he heard from people was, "Oh, Albany. It sort of sucks." Well, they were wrong. And Graham figured that out pretty quickly.

Originally from Arkansas, he didn't really know much about the northeast or upstate New York in general. But now, after three years here, he'd probably be one of the best people to ask about Albany.

"I consider myself from Albany now, but I wouldn't say I'm a New Yorker," he says.

Graham's final performance at the cathedral is during services this Sunday (May 19) and he leaves Albany shortly after that for a new post in Dallas. But talking with him about some of what he's learned about the city and its history reveals what happens when someone embraces their adopted town.

"I like it here because the people here are all business -- they're not that friendly. You know, down in the south, you go to get a cup of coffee and the person behind the counter will just want to chat with you. Which seems nice, but you just get tired of it. Just give me my coffee," said Graham. "But the driving I hate. The tailgating I hate."

He relocated here when he was awarded a fellowship. The Episcopal cathedral offers a two-year learning experience for organ players to come, hone their craft, and play with one of the few remaining boys choirs in the nation. They play for all prayer services, Eucharistic services, Choral Evensong (evening prayer) and any other events the cathedral holds.

"When the entire congregation is involved and you have a full church singing, you're just on top of the world."

"Here, I play everything, which is amazing for a young musician. I can play the entire Anglican repertoire of music," says Graham, "and I can do some improvised music after communion and I just let loose. It is sort of a power thing. When the entire congregation is involved and you have a full church singing, you're just on top of the world."

He admits that organ playing isn't exactly a common interest for 27 year-olds, "but I was always a weird kid, so it's kind of par for the course." He explains: "I always loved hearing the organ when I went to church, so in 9th grade, I started taking organ lessons. (He already played piano at that point.) He even attended the famous Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan for high school. (Rumer Willis -- the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore -- attended at the same And yes, he did meet Bruce... sort of. Graham asked him to get out of the way so he could get to the bathroom.)

After attending the Cleveland Institute of Music for college, Graham was looking into graduate school in Rochester when he was offered the position at the cathedral, so he headed to Albany.

cathedral of all saints exterior spring 2013

"Right off the bat I loved the architecture and the history behind it. I would just walk everywhere so I got to know my surroundings and my neighbors."

He immersed himself in our brewing history, the Albany Rural Cemetery (he has a thing for cemeteries), the controversy behind building the Empire State Plaza, the history of the Cathedral of All Saints, and his personal obsession: boot scrapers.

Boot scrapers are small metal bars found on railings and outside the doors of some of Albany's older buildings. It was where one would scrape their shoes before entering the building. It's sort of a remnant of a more proper time, where roads were unpaved dirt paths and etiquette demanded that you wipe your shoes before entering another's house - not just take off your shoes and enjoy their soft carpeting. You can only find them in the older parts of town and ever since Graham found out about them, he looks for them everywhere.

He spoke with elderly neighbors who knew the city back when, he read the "Old Albany" series by Morris Gerber, and he enjoyed the stories of Jim Guinn, the cathedral historian, who remembers when Freihofer's was delivered around the city by horse.

But one of his favorite stories involves the first Episcopal Bishop of Albany, William Doane, and his rivalry with Andrew Sloan Draper. Doane was the visionary behind the cathedral and its grand structure. He wanted to emulate the great ancient cathedrals of Europe and had some help to do so. His good friend JP Morgan helped his project financially and Bishop Doane had a large parcel of land to build his church, a school, and other buildings for the diocese. But he couldn't afford to expand all the way to Washington Ave. So his "frenemy" (as Graham describes him) Draper waited until Doane was away in Europe, bought the land, and enclosed Doane's grand cathedral with the imposing State Education Building.

cathedral of all saints next to state ed building

If you take a walk around the block, you'll notice the tension -- two sides of the cathedral are closely bordered by the State Ed Building and both buildings are almost matched for height. To this day, the staff at the cathedral will joke about hating the State Ed. Building and the State Ed. Building will joke right back.

When he wasn't delving into the history of our city through architecture, Graham also took random drives to places like Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, went on "vacation" in Utica, and tried to check off as many things from his Albany bucket list as possible.

Still remaining: The Burden Ironworks Museum in Troy, Pauly's Hotel ("Because I like seedy places. I require some seed.") and Rolf's Pork Store.

He's a little less enthused about the architectural background of his next home, Dallas. But excited about his new position.

And now, when people in Texas ask -- "Why Albany?" -- he'll have plenty to tell them.

Graham Schultz courtesy of Graham Schultz


A lovely article but I keep thinking if he doesn't like the driving and tailgating here, wait til he gets to Dallas.

What a cool article. Good luck on your new chapter in Dallas!

Graham you are amazing! I don't know how the Cathedral will function without you! You have been so much more than the Organist. You do EVERYTHING--I don't know--maybe you DO windows! You have been an amazing addition to our Cathedral Family. Indeed, the Cathedral has a way of sucking you in & making you a part of our extended family! You play the organ, direct the choir, lead services, acolyte, read, are a Eucharistic Minister.... You remind me of myself at St. Paul's in Jacksonville Beach FL. However, I didn''t lead services--we had 4 priests & this was a Roman church where they could not have done liturgy like the Cathedral if we resurrected the Ghosts of Bishops to teach them. Good luck to you, Graham. Come back & see us sometime! You have set the bar very, very high for the next Organ Fellow. Have fun in Texas (is that possible?) and think of us w/a twinge a guilt when it's 80+ down there & -20 & near blizzard conditions up here!

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