Street Organs

…adding flavor to the air


For an unknown reason in early 2016 I became obsessed with the idea of constructing a street organ.  In February 2016 I ordered plans for a Senior 20 from John Smith in England.  Construction of “Misty” began in March 2016 and finished (though it will never be ‘finished’) in August 2016.

Since completing the organ I have given private performances in friend’s homes, have performed publicly with it on the San Diego waterfront, and in Balboa Park, and at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, CA.  A performance at Oakmont of Escondido Hills (a retirement home) was especially rewarding.  I played several Christmas rolls and folks sang along!  It was fun.

“Misty”, my first street organ, was constructed loosely following John Smith’s plans.  I could not have constructed this first organ without his plans and the accompanying video.  There is a lot of John Smith DNA in “Misty”.

“Misty” is an actual acoustic organ.  Cranking the handle at the back of the organ drives bellows which pump air into the reservoir.  The air in the reservoir escapes into the organ pipes through holes in the music rolls.  Each roll holds approximately 7 minutes of music.

I have started my second street organ.  I am building to my own plans this time.  I like to think of it as there is more James Coffee Studios DNA in this second organ…and less John Smith DNA.  As time flows and as I continue to construct street organs the DNA ratio will continue to become James Coffee Studios stronger.  I do have ultimate respect for John Smith.  I could not (would not) have created my first street organ without his plans.  On the other hand I am an artist and I have a technical background so I am comfortable moving forward with plans that I am creating for myself.


There are several different venues that have made my creation of “Misty” possible:

  1. Plans from John Smith.  Invaluable.
  2. The Busker Organ Music website.  Lot’s of resource.
  3.  The Busker Organ Forum.  If you are considering building an organ take the time to read all of the posts here.
  4.  Ronald Walters YouTube videos .  Not only can you watch how he constructs different organ components…you also see how his shop is set up and how he works.  An excellent resource.
  5. If you are wanting a fun overview of street organs visit YouTube.  Lots of street organs there.
Jim Coffee and “Misty”, the street organ