Capitals to no longer use live organ during games, ending 22-year 'great ride' for organist Bruce Anderson

Capitals to no longer use live organ during games, ending 22-year ‘great ride’ for organist Bruce Anderson

Washington Capitals games will have a different feel to them this season. Monumental Sports and Entertainment have removed the organist position from Capital One Arena. They will not bring back Bruce Anderson after 22 years as house organist.

Anderson announced the news on his social media.

Anderson wrote more on Facebook:

I’m sad to report that today I found out that the Washington Capitals will no longer be using the organ for Caps games. I saw the writing on the wall last season as my playing time was severely cut back including goal fanfares and no in-period playing other than maybe one Let’s Go Caps per period.

After 22 years I will sorely miss the game production team (we’ve been through a lot together ) all the press box folks and off ice officials I’ve met over the years.

I’ll especially miss the fans who cheered, clapped and sang along with me through the years.

No regrets – I have a Stanley Cup ring – an Emmy -great Winter Classic memories – getting a shout out from Doc Emrick -plus getting to watch Ovi for most of his career and some cherished friendships.

In the short time since posting, Anderson’s tweet has gone viral in and beyond Capitals circles, garnering hundreds of retweets and thousands of favorites. Current season ticket holders and fans who have attended games in the past appeared displeased and shocked by the decision.

In a statement, the Capitals confirmed they’d no longer be using a live organist, but parts of their presentation may still include organ music.

“Ahead of the 2022-23 season, we decided not to bring back the live portion of the organ,” a Capitals representative said. “We are continuously finding ways to transform the in-game experience, including having professionally recorded organ songs and prompts. We thank Bruce for his contributions to the organization and wish him the very best.”

Anderson was still digesting the news when I spoke with him this morning.

“I have no ill feelings towards anyone,” Anderson said in an interview. “I’m just sad to have it end.”

Anderson said he found out the news via a phone call on Tuesday after submitting his schedule for the 2022-23 season in the weeks prior. He assumed things would remain status quo.

“After 22 years, to be let go over the phone like that is a little disconcerting,” Anderson said, though he admitted he wasn’t sure how one would go about delivering this news perfectly. “I don’t know a better way to handle it.”

A supervisor told Anderson that because the team had whittled his role down so much, they felt bad about having him drive down from Towson, where he lives, to produce only a few minutes of music each night. He was offered free tickets to games this season as a concession.

Anderson’s role with the game entertainment team was altered when fans started returning to Capital One Arena after the pandemic.

“From what I was told last year, the organ was too Original Six,” Anderson said. “I was told along the lines, ‘The organ was great in an Original Six format, but it doesn’t work with what we’re trying to do as part of the game presentation.’”

Anderson’s role in goal announcements—he used to play the flourish after names were announced—was ended. His role in trying to elicit chants and cheers from the crowd during the first, second, and third periods was mostly eliminated as leadership shifted more to deejays playing music.

“They went to deejaying pretty heavily, Anderson said. “They’d maybe let me play a CAPS chant after the first whistle.”

Anderson stressed to me that no one on the game entertainment staff should be blamed or criticized for him losing his job, as they all are like family to him.

Anderson, during the day, is the owner of Lutherville Music School and Rock School in Timonium, Maryland, where he helps kids learn how to play and compose music.

Anderson first got his job with the Capitals in 1999 after new owner Ted Leonsis thought the team needed an organ. Bruce unleashed his talents during a demo and the rest is history.

“I kinda fell into it originally,” Anderson said. “When they came and looked at the organ, I did the demonstration. Then they bought it, but they didn’t have anyone to play it for the first preseason game in 2000. So they asked me, ‘Bruce can you go down play in the first game?’ I did and then I’ve done it ever since.”

Anderson experienced some of the highest highs during his time as an organist, watching Alex Ovechkin from his perch become one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. Leonsis was also kind enough to give the franchise’s supporting staff a championship ring in 2018 when the team finally got over the hump. The gesture was one that Bruce is eternally grateful for.

“This job was a big part of my identity. Not many people are hockey organists,” Anderson said. “It was great fun. A long run at that. Lots of great memories calumniating with the Stanley Cup and getting the ring. Being able to do the Winter Classic was really a treat. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made. I won an Emmy with Elliot in the Morning. I had a lot of great, great experiences. It was a great ride. I certainly have no regrets.”

But in the end, it was how much Bruce’s music mattered and connected to people that really hit home. Anderson was shocked and humbled by how many people — people he thought didn’t even know who he was — were upset on social media that he was not coming back.

“I really appreciate how many people enjoyed and loved the organ and found it such a big part of their game experience,” Anderson said. “It means the world to me.”

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