TAMPA — Before the DJs and the play lists, one could find organist Lori Graves playing in front of her last pro sports crowd in Chicago about 35 years ago.
All the time that has passed made her all the more excited for her next opportunity: a chance to play for the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Krystof Srebrakowski, who has played the organ at home games since 2012, is unavailable for the next few games due to personal reasons. He’s expected to return late this month.
In the meantime, Graves will be leading the crowd.
“I think it’s a great experience,” she said. “There’s a little bit of a learning curve with each team you do because everybody does something a little bit different.”
Graves, 55, has been playing the organ for 50 years and plays professionally when she’s not giving lessons. She has done work with organ makers Hammond and Yamaha. Most recently she was a concert artist with organ-maker Lowrey. She has been able to tour the world in her years of playing.
The now-Ocala resident said the Lightning reached out to her about eight years ago when she was living in Chicago after they saw videos of her playing. At the time, she was working for Lowrey. It was too hectic for her to travel to Tampa so much.
Three years ago, Graves moved to Florida and reached out to John Franzone, the Lightning’s vice president for game entertainment. Now she’s the club’s backup.
“They want to bring me in about once a month to keep me fresh and change things up a bit for the fans,” she said.
But first, she was focused on Saturday night and “getting through it without goofing up.”