Meet Reds Organist John Schutte

Mar 19, 2020

The Reds haven't been to the playoffs lately, but the team consistently leads Major League Baseball with the hippest ballpark organist.

You might not know John Schutte's name, but millions of people have enjoyed his music at Great American Ball Park since 2010 – or playing keyboard for the Rusty Griswolds 1980's cover band.

Schutte, a 1983 Oak Hills High School graduate, talks to me about his music and his day job – he's a St. Bernard firefighter – on Around Cincinnati at 7 p.m. this Sunday, March 22, on WVXU-FM (91.7).  I'll post a link here after the broadcast.

John Schutte, with his notes next to him at the Great American Ball Park organ, arrives three-and-a-half hours before the first pitch to prepare for the game.
Credit Courtesy John Schutte

You'll also hear a couple other baseball-themed interviews Sunday on what was to be Lee Hay's annual Opening Day preview. Howard Wilkinson interviews Rosie Reds President Valerie Guthrie, and I chat with former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell about his tribute to vendor "Peanut Jim" Shelton, and memories of going to Crosley Field and running Arnold's Bar & Grill, Ludlow Garage and Grammer's restaurant.

Schutte making a rare appearance playing organ inside the ballpark entrance.
Credit Courtesy John Schutte

Schutte will surprise you. He gets to the ballpark three-and-a-half hours before the first pitch to prepare for his performance. Playing for the Reds gives him musical freedom that the '80s music parameters for the Rusty Griswolds doesn't.

Yes, he gets lots of song suggestions from friends and fellow firefighters. He keeps adding to a list on his phone, and tests songs on his organ at home to see if they're suitable for a baseball game. Or the organ. 

He explains what songs he likes to play, which ones he won't, and why.

Schutte tells how a nun taught him to play organ for Catholic masses while in junior high school. (He wasn't big enough to reach the pedals.) He was a drummer in the Oak Hills High School marching band.

Schutte says he tests songs on his organ at home before playing them during a Reds game.
Credit Courtesy John Schutte

He also explains about how he juggles working as a firefighter every third day with doing 60 Reds games a year and 15-20 summer gigs with the Griswolds.

And more.

Baseball has been delayed for two months, but you can hear a sample of Schutte's music 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, in O'Toole From Moscow. He provided the ballpark organ music for our adaptation of Rod Serling's 1955 Cold War-era TV comedy about confusion between the Russians and Cincinnati Reds which results in a Russian embassy security officer playing outfield for the Reds.

"Around Cincinnati" airs 7-8 p.m. Sundays on WVXU-FM (91.7) and WMUB-FM (88.5) and streamed at wvxu.org.

"O'Toole From Moscow" premieres 8-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, on WVXU-FM (91.7) and WMUB-FM (88.5) and streamed at wvxu.org.