Arc of Dreams: Sioux Falls man builds pipe organs around the world

Sioux Falls, SD The Arc of Dreams sculpture will span the Big Sioux River between 6th and 8th street in downtown Sioux Falls.

This project is designed to recognize the people who made their dream come true and inspire others to dream big right here in Sioux Falls.

It’s much like the story of one Sioux Falls Native who was able to move back to his home town and make his very unique dream a reality.

“My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her I wanted an organ,” John Nordlie said.

When he was just five-years-old, John Nordlie became fascinated with organs.

“I started thinking about organ building very early in life,” Nordlie said. “All through high school I’d go to the library and check books out and read about pipe organs.”

While attending college at Augustana his passion for organs grew, but it wasn't something he originally thought he could do in Sioux Falls.

“One interim I traveled to Europe and studied organs with another professor from Luther College, and when I finished with Augustan, I knew that I wanted to apprentice, so I went out to New England,” he said.

After just a few years with the company, the owner asked him to become the foreman.

“Actually run what was going on, and I thought at that point, maybe I should be running it on my own rather than someone else's company,” he said.

That’s when he won his first bid to build an organ for a church in Appleton, Minnesota.

“I made arrangements and moved back to South Dakota and set up a little shop in my father's garage actually,” he said. “My mother and father helped me build my first organ.”

From there his business blossomed. His fourth major project at the Augustana chapel was one of the largest instruments he’s ever built.

After that he moved out of his parent’s garage and built his own workshop that has helped him and his employees construct more than 50 pipe organs all over the world.

“We've got a couple of instruments in Japan, a few in North Carolina,” Nordlie said.

All of them built right here in Sioux Falls.

“It is kind of a dream come true; I didn't really expect to be doing it my entire life. I thought it would be fun to try something and move on, but the work just kept coming in and the work is still coming in,” he said.

Nordlie says business is still booming 41 years later. Right now he is building several organs, including one for the Sacred Heart church in Aberdeen.

You can be a part of making more dreams come true through the Arc of Dreams project.Recognize a dreamer with a permanent plaque or make a donation. All the money raised will support maintenance on the project.