Fargo Theatre House Organists
Present House Organists
Dylan Thiele (March 7, 2021-Present)
Dylan has been a house organist of the Fargo Theatre since 2021. He joined RRTOS in 2016 when he was 12 years old after going to a Silent Movie Night at the Fargo Theater. He was elected vice president in June of 2023 and took an intrigue in the maintenance side of the Wurlitzer which eventually expanded to working on organs around the area with Alex Moe. Dylan also serves as a chapter historian/archivist. In May of 2023 Dylan took in the former Weld Hall Organ console affectionately named “Ted” and is digitizing it to become a Hauptwerk instrument. He also plays organ for the St. Thomas United Methodist Church in St. Thomas, North Dakota.
Alex Moe (November 21, 2021-Present)
Alex is a 2021 graduate of Hawley High School. He developed a passion for music at a young age and has a diverse understanding of the design and functionality of musical instruments, including pianos, pipe organs, and band instruments. Alex joined in the fall of 2021 and is now president of the RRTOS, house organist at the Fargo theater and one of the organ curators for our instruments.
Alex Swanson (January 2012-Present)
Alex was raised on a farm near Moorhead, Minnesota, and was organist of the rural church he attended while growing up.
He joined Red River Theatre Organ Society in the fall of 2011 and has served as a house organist of the Fargo Theatre since early 2012. He has served as RRTOS president and vice president, and currently serves as its treasurer, historian/archivist, reporter, and webmaster.
He is also a member of the Red River Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists where he has served as secretary, treasurer, historian/archivist, and on various committees.
Alex is employed as a mortician at West Funeral Home in West Fargo, ND.
Past House Organists
Ramon Berry (March 15, 1926-ca. July, 1926)
Ramon Berry, known as the “Premiere Organist of the Northwest,” was a South Dakota native who gained notoriety in Chicago and was editor of The American Organist magazine. Mr. Berry was hired as the first house organist of the Fargo Theatre, holding this position for only about six weeks or more.
Eddie Borgens (ca. July 1926-ca. August 1926)
Eddie was famous theatre organist who spent the majority of his career in California, managing a chain of theatre organ-themed pizza parlors. Both he and his predecessor Ramon Berry had been working as organists for the M. L. Finkelstein & I. H. Ruben theatre chain, which was the chain that owned and opened the Fargo Theatre.
Organists employed by theater companies were expected to not only provide rousing performances to draw crowds to grand openings of theaters, but also perform light technical work on the organs themselves, as there were always bugs from their recent installations to be fixed.
Hildegarde (Usselman) Kraus (ca. Aug. 1926-ca. March 28, 1948, ca. 1975-ca. 1990)
Hildegarde grew up at Fort Rice and Mandan, ND, graduating from Mandan High School. She then came to Fargo, ND to take an accounting course, and very quickly became part of the music scene in Fargo. This was during the heyday of silent motion pictures and Hildegarde found work as a house organist at the Orpheum, State, and Fargo Theatres. At that time she also became employed as staff organist at WDAY Studio. She studied theatre organ under Eddie Dunstedter in Minneapolis.
In Fargo, she played on Barton, Marr & Colton, and Wurlitzer theatre pipe organs, and the last remaining of these is the Fargo Theatre Wurlitzer Organ. Hildegarde worked for WDAY for 28 years, retiring around 1955. She was the third house organist of the Fargo Theatre, beginning in the summer of 1926, several months after the theatre opened.
She married the Fargo Theatre manager, Ed Kraus, who disliked all things organ and by 1948, the Fargo Theatre Wurlitzer fell silent and she did not play it again until it was restored beginning in 1973. In 1965 Hildegarde became a charter member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society, and her fellow members convinced her to come out of retirement and she scored several more silent films during the '70s and '80s. Throughout her years in the theatre industry, she met many celebrities who came to the Fargo. She was also organist of St. John Lutheran Church in Fargo. During the later years of her life, she was honored at several organ events of the Red River Theatre Organ Society.
She later passed away from dementia/Alzheimer's disease and was able to play proficiently even during week before she died in 1995. She is still revered today by those who knew her as "The Incomparable Hildegarde" and she and Ed have a commemorative sidewalk square on Broadway in Fargo.
Lance E. Johnson (December 22, 1973-
March 25, 2021)
Lance was born and raised in Fergus Falls, MN where he founded Johnson Organ Company at age 16. He began classical organ studies at age 14 and later studied engineering at NDSU. He graduated from Concordia College with a BM in organ in 1964.
He played at Bud’s Roller Rink for ten years on the former WDAY studio Barton organ and in 1973, began a nearly 48-year stint as a house organist of the Fargo Theatre. He has played numerous concerts on the 3/12 Wurlitzer at A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls (formerly Fergus Theatre). He also played the former 3/9 composite theatre pipe organ at Weld Hall on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead for nearly 40 years.
Lance was the organizer and a charter member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society in 1965, and served as its president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer for many years. He was the curator of the Fargo Theatre Wurlitzer organ from 1973-2021.
Lance has resided in Dilworth, MN for over 50 years.
Dave Knudtson (Dec. 22, 1973- ca. 2005)
David was born on December 19, 1945 in Duluth, Minnesota. He joined the Knudtson Family in June of 1946. As a small child Dave would climb up on his Grandma's piano bench and play the piano. That's where it all started and that is what he was most happy doing his whole life... making music!
Dave graduated from Halstad High School in 1963 and studied electronics for two years at Thief River Falls Technical College. It was there that be became interested in theater and got his first job as a projectionist. After graduation, he moved to Pembina, ND to work for KCND -TV. In January of 1967 he went to work for KTHI-TV in Fargo as a "switch operator." He was transferred to Grand Forks and then back to Fargo as Operations Manager in 1973. At this time he was also working part time as projectionist at Cinema Theaters in both Grand Forks and Fargo.
After leaving the TV station, Dave became the manager of the Fargo Theatre and was instrumental in and dedicated to the renovation of the historic theater. David was a long-time member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society. With the help of this non-profit organization, Dave helped restore the Wurlitzer pipe organ and spent many hours refurbishing the theater. He played the organ at Silent Movie nights and also helped to bring the first Silent Movie Film Festival to Fargo.
Dave taught radio/TV production for a while at Moorhead State College. He played theatre organ scores there for over 30 years as well as playing church services at Bethany Lutheran Church and at Eventide in Moorhead.
Whenever there was a need for someone to play special music or wherever there was a need for technical help... Dave was there! Dave's amazing musical talent and his unique personality will always be remembered by all those whose lives he touched.
David died peacefully on March 11, 2018, at Sanford Hospital in Fargo with family and friends by his side.
Lloyd Collins (Dec. 22, 1973-ca. 2005)
Lloyd was a charter member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society in 1965 and served as its President, Vice President, Secretary, and later was Treasurer for many years. He was a house organist of the Fargo Theatre for many years, playing for the annual Silent Movie Night, the Christmas Noon-Hour Holiday Pipes Concerts, and many other events.
He was also active in the Red River Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and served as its sub-dean, secretary, and treasurer.
Lloyd was employed by Daveau Music Company in Fargo and later Nels Vogel Music in Moorhead.
He was organist of Plymouth Congregational Church in Fargo, and later Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo for about 40 years.
Lloyd passed away in 2011.
His outstanding musical talent, good humor and wit will be missed and is forever remembered by those who knew him.
Pat Kelly (Carrol Smaby) (Dec. 22, 1973-
Known by his stage name, "Pat Kelly," Pat grew up in Halstad, MN. He was a charter member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society in 1965, and he served as its President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. He also performed on WDAY Television's "Party Line" program. He was a well-known musician of the Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN area and passed away in 1996.
Gene Struble (ca. 1978-ca. 2003)
Roy Eugene (Gene) Struble, 89, died Tuesday, April 17, 2007, at Country Manor in Sartell, MN.
Gene was born October 23, 1918, in Charles City, Iowa, to John and Edna Struble. He graduated from Fargo Central High School. He graduated from MSUM, Moorhead, and went on to earn his Master's degree from NDSU, Fargo.
Gene married Maxine Wichmann on August 16, 1940. During their marriage, they lived in Fertile, Thief River Falls, Shakopee, St. Paul, on Middle Cormorant Lake and Fargo. Gene's career started in education as a teacher and administrator. He worked in Chamber of Commerce related areas for several years.
Throughout his life, he worked both professionally and for the pleasure of others in vocal and instrumental music. He was a pipe organist at the Fargo Theatre for 16 years on the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ. He was an active member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society for many years.
Tyler Engberg (ca. 1980-July 13, 2017)
Tyler W. Engberg, 64, of Fargo, North Dakota died on July 13th, 2017, surrounded by his family. He was born on September 6, 1952 in Grafton, ND to Chet and Kay Engberg. He graduated from Williston High School and earned an Associates Degree from NDSU.
As a music aficionado, Tyler was in the piano business selling pianos during college. He excelled in sales working for Cummins Diesel Sales Inc., Eutectic, and for over thirty years with Northern Dewatering.
From childhood Tyler had a passion for aviation. He began flying at the age of fourteen and eventually purchased his own airplane. His last hurrah in the skies was over Easter weekend when Tyler was able to take all seven of his grandchildren flying, thanks to the Springer family.
Tyler was an accomplished pianist and organist. He was a long time member of the Red River Theatre Organ Society. He spent most of his weekends volunteering as a house organist at The Fargo Theatre.
Tyler was a member of a variety of professional organizations related to his interests and profession. One of his many hobbies included restoring a 1927 Model T. and fine tuning a 1928 Chevy.
Lorraine (Nelson) Jossund (June, 1983-ca. 1987)
Lorraine Nelson was raised on a farm near Hendrum, MN, where she graduated from high school. Lorraine studied organ under deceased RRTOS member Melita Nelson. While obtaining her BS degree at NDSU, Lorraine began her term as a house organist at the Fargo Theatre in June, 1983. She played for prologues and Holiday Pipes concerts until 1987 when she graduated from NDSU. She then married John Jossund of Perley, MN, and they have three children; Andrew, Laura, and Daniel. In December 2023, Lorraine rejoined RRTOS, played the Fargo Theatre Wurlitzer for the first time in three decades, and plans to make more musical appearances at the theatre in the coming years.
Allen Moe (1993-1994)
Allen Moe began tuning and repairing pianos in northern Minnesota in 1991. Throughout the next several years, he expanded his services to player pianos, reed organs, and nickelodeons. In mid-1995, Allen accepted a position with the Wicks Organ Company in Highland, IL. Over the next 9 years, Allen worked in their shop learning the art of organ building, while continuing his hobby of piano and reed organ repair. During this time, Allen spent several years working on the service crew and was involved with the tuning and service of hundreds of organs by various builders in the shop territory. Having worked in many departments of the shop, Allen was promoted to Director of Research and Development in 1999. Responsibilities in this position included the testing and troubleshooting of every organ before it left the shop.
In 2004, Allen and his family returned to Minnesota to establish their own business, Moe Piano & Organ Company. In 2008, the business name was changed to Moe Pipe Organ Company to better reflect the primary focus of the business. Over the last several years, Allen has completed numerous organ projects across Minnesota and surrounding states, ranging from routine repair and cleaning to additions and electrical upgrades, as well as complete organ design, construction and installation.
Allen joined RRTOS around 2023 and was a house organist of the Fargo Theatre while attending Concordia College in the 1990s. He studied theatre organ under Lloyd Collins.
Allen and his son, Alex (current RRTOS President) have served as curators of the Fargo Theatre Wurlitzer organ since 2021.
Steve Eneboe (ca. 2000-2012)
Steve was raised in Sisseton, SD, and in the mid-1990s moved to Moorhead, MN and joined the Red River Theatre Organ Society. Shortly after he became a house organist of the Fargo Theatre. He was an early member of the Central Minnesota Otter Tail Chapter of the ATOS in Fergus Falls and also played on the 3/12 Wurlitzer at A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls for several years.
Steve currently resides in his hometown of Sisseton, SD and remains active in the RRTOS.
Ryan Hardy (ca. 2014-Jan. 2021)
Ryan Hardy is a Fargo, ND native, where he graduated from high school. He then attended NDSU and graduated with a major in musical education and a focus in musical percussion.
Ryan joined the RRTOS in the summer of 2010, and served a house organist of the Fargo Theatre from ca. 2014 to 2021. He was president of RRTOS from 2015-2021.
Currently, he is attending seminary to become a Catholic Priest of the Dominican Order.
Dillon Swanson (March 7, 2021-July 18, 2023)
A native of Aberdeen, SD/Oakes, ND, Dillon Swanson attended Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, majoring in organ performance. During his college years, he served as part-time organist at Gethsemane Episcopal Cathedral, The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, and Cantor/Organist of Bethesda Lutheran Church in Moorhead.
In 2019, Dillon joined the Red River Theatre Organ Society and served as its president from 2021-2023. He also served as a house organist of the Fargo Theatre during that time.
Dillon was an active member of the Red River Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists from ca. 2016-2023, and served as its Dean, Sub-Dean, and on various committees during that time.
In July, 2023, Dillon moved to Ronaoke, VA and assumed the position of Director of Music Ministries at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA.
Dillon has worked in music ministry in a variety of roles and congregations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Virginia for over a decade. He has also served on the worship staff of the Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival (LSM) facilitated by the Lutheran Music Program at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana as organ fellow under the mentorship of Chad Fothergill during the 2020-21 seasons.