During tax season, Jeff Verkuilen focuses all his attention on the lines of tax returns — in his job as owner of Verkuilen & Associates, CPAs, an accounting firm in Green Bay.
But in his spare time — and just about any other time he has away from the office — Verkuilen, 55, focuses on lines of sheet music as a well-known and in-demand professional organist.
In addition to serving as the regular organist at First United Methodist Church in Green Bay and organist for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Verkuilen is an adjunct instructor of music for St. Norbert College and the organist for the Dudley Birder Chorale.
“It’s a good mix of skills,” says Verkuilen, a married father of two adult children. “It’s like balancing my life, the different kinds of work that I do.
“They help balance each other. I’d really feel at a loss without one of them. My life has kind of evolved that way.”
Verkuilen’s life in music began at a young age — he started playing pipe organ in seventh grade for his church in Little Chute. “I’ve been playing in churches ever since,” he says.
“What really drew me was the color (tonality) of the instrument. Pianos essentially started to sound similar; with organs, you can create almost unlimited sounds … you have a lot of power with the instrument.”
And while Verkuilen never envisioned music as a career, it has become more than just a hobby — especially because skilled organists are hard to find.
“I was always impressed with his ability to juggle demanding schedules of church work while growing his own tax business,” Larry Wheelock, immediate past dean of the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), says of Verkuilen’s talent.
In fact, Verkuilen’s tax expertise also helped the association by offering a workshop on tax issues for organists. In addition, he serves on the national finance and development committee of the 15,000-member national AGO.
“It’s a combination of bringing my business experiences into the music community,” Verkuilen says.
While Verkuilen’s tax business pays the bills, music is far from just his side gig. “My music work is a job, and I treat it like a job,” he says, admitting he “sometimes gets overwhelmed.”
When working 80-hour weeks during tax season, Verkuilen tries to minimize the number of concerts he does. His music sidebars become possible, he notes, “because I have people helping me out doing the office work; I have to remind myself of that a lot.”
Still, his passion for the organ is evident. The Rev. David Kalas of First United Methodist Church in Green Bay observes Verkuilen “is, of course, a consummate musician, whose contributions to our worship services are cherished by our whole church family … yet Jeff’s value to us goes beyond his proficiency at the keyboard. He brings wisdom, insight and good humor to every meeting of which he is a part. He has a vision that has helped us to expand our music ministry.”
Verkuilen hopes to continue spreading that ministry as he serves as organ instructor at SNC, training a future generation of organists.
“Organists that are being trained now have never been better,” he says. “I want to make sure there are people coming up behind me. We want to continue to sustain.”