CARLE PLACE, N.Y. (CNS) -- Paul Cartier, an organist at Our Lady of Hope
Church in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, finds himself in sports
heaven at this time of the year.
In addition to his parish duties, Cartier plays the organ for Major
League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the National Hockey League’s New
With baseball season and hockey's postseason underway, Cartier is a busy
man, driving between his home in South Hempstead and his jobs at Our
Lady of Hope in Carle Place, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and Nassau
Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.
He also averages more than 15 hours a week as a volunteer commissioner,
firefighter and emergency medical technician with the South Hempstead
Cartier's schedule was even more hectic when he held a full-time
position as a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller, a
job he retired from in January.
A lifelong sports fanatic, the 56-year-old musician admits to "living a
dream," getting paid to play the organ for his two favorite professional
teams. "I have to pinch myself," he told Catholic News Service during
an interview conducted in the organ loft at his parish church. "There
are probably a lot of people who wish they could be doing what I'm
"Now that I'm retired, my job is to go to the stadium or the arena. Can it get better than that?"
Cartier has been an organist at Our Lady of Hope since the parish was
founded in 1987. In recent years, he's played primarily at the Saturday
vigil Mass. He also is a substitute organist at three other Catholic
Our Lady of Hope's 3.5-mile distance from Nassau Coliseum enables
Cartier to cover the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass and arrive in ample time for a
7 p.m. Islanders' game. From his home, he can complete the 25-mile
drive to Yankee Stadium -- where he plays at weekday games -- in about a
When baseball and hockey season overlap, as they do now and in the fall,
Cartier may be scheduled to play the organ at Yankee Stadium and Nassau
Coliseum on successive days or on the same day. Arrangements are made
for fill-in coverage when conflicts arise.
Cartier's stamina was put to the test recently when he sat at the Yankee
Stadium organ console for nearly eight straight hours. On April 10, the
Yankees hosted the Boston Red Sox in a game that began at 7 p.m. It
unfolded into a 19-inning marathon, with Boston winning 6-5 when the
final out was recorded at 2:13 a.m.
After arriving home after 3 a.m., and sleeping until 10, Cartier headed
out a few hours later to the Coliseum, where he was on duty for the
Islanders' final regular-season home game on Long Island. Beginning next
season, and after 43 years in Uniondale, the Islanders will play their
home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, about 25 miles west of
Admittedly tired after the extra-inning contest, Cartier got a second
wind when he arrived at the Coliseum, where the crowd was already in a
frenzy, cheering the team during the pre-game festivities.
"The energy at that game took care of itself," explained Cartier, who
was one of the Islanders' organists when the team won four straight
Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s. "I was all pumped, the
place was packed. The fans were screaming before the team came onto the
Cartier's biggest thrill as an organist came in 2009 when he was at
Yankee Stadium for New York's World Series-clinching victory against the
Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6. "That was fun," said Cartier, who rode
on a float during the team's championship parade down Broadway in New
York City. He and other team employees were given World Series rings.
Cartier's infatuation with the organ began at an early age. It was love
at first sight when, at age eight, he was introduced to his aunt's new
Magnus electric chord organ -- a play-by-number-and-letter plastic
tabletop instrument popular in the 1960s and '70s.
"I sat down and started to play, and loved it immediately," he recalled.
Cartier's parents subsequently bought him a similar organ, which he
mastered before taking formal piano lessons for more than a year.
Confident in his music skills, Cartier wanted the opportunity to play
the organ at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Roosevelt, the
family's parish. The music director, impressed with his command of the
instrument, allowed him to play at a Saturday vigil Mass.
"It was on the eve of my 11th birthday, and I was nervous as heck,"
Cartier said of his church debut, adding, "I really couldn't reach the
pedals too well at that point."
The audition was a success, earning Cartier the Saturday night
assignment, which he held for seven years until he began college at the
University of Dayton in Ohio.
After a year at Dayton, Cartier decided to return home to Long Island,
where he enrolled at Hofstra University in Hempstead. He graduated from
the school with a bachelor's degree in music education.
While at Hofstra, Cartier played the organ Sunday mornings at United
Methodist Church of Uniondale at 10 and at St. Martha Church, a
half-mile away, at 11:45.
Despite his frenetic schedule, Cartier -- who was honored by the Diocese
of Rockville Centre for 35 years of service in music ministry when he
was only 46 -- always seems to manage to get where he needs to go. "I've
been pretty lucky," he said. "I've had few conflicts."
One of those conflicts occurs April 19, when the Islanders face the
Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum in a first-round playoff game
that starts at noon. Cartier's 3-month-old granddaughter, Lina Grace --
the first grandchild of Paul and his wife of 25 years, Jan, a retired
nurse -- is scheduled to be baptized at Our Lady of Hope at 1 p.m.
Cartier plans to play the organ at the Coliseum for pre-game
introductions and for most of the first period before making the
five-minute drive to the church. The team's production staff has
recorded Cartier's music and will use the recording in his absence.
"Life happens," said Cartier. "This is family. This is an important
time, so the christening has to come first. We'll work it out (at the
Asked if there are other dream jobs he'd like to pursue as an organist,
Cartier said his "bucket list" includes playing one of two massive
Wurlitzer pipe organs at Radio City Music Hall in New York during the
"A lot of people don't know this but a half-hour before the show, the
organist plays for about 15 to 20 minutes," said Cartier, smiling at the
thought. "It's something I definitely want to do."