AGO Names Prizewinners in National Organ Competitions

Eight Prizes Presented to Six Organists at AGO National Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is pleased to announce the results of its National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) and the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI). Competition prizewinners were recognized on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, at the AGO Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with the 51st biennial AGO National Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The following competition prizes were awarded:

NATIONAL YOUNG ARTISTS COMPETITION IN ORGAN PERFORMANCE

First Prize—Daryl Robinson
The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $3,000 cash award and career development assistance provided by Karen McFarlane Artists; a CD recording by Pro Organo; and a performance at the 2014 AGO National Convention in Boston, Mass.

Second Prize—Malcolm Matthews
$3,000 cash award provided by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

Third Prize—Thatcher Lyman
$2,000 cash award provided by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Audience Choice Prize—Daryl Robinson
$1,000 cash award provided by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company

NATIONAL COMPETITION IN ORGAN IMPROVISATION

First Prize—Robert Nicholls
$3,000 cash award provided by McNeil Robinson

Second Prize—Patrick A. Scott
$2,000 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.

Third Prize—Douglas Murray
$1,500 cash award provided by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra

Audience Choice Prize—Patrick A. Scott
$1,000 cash award provided by David and Robin Arcus

NATIONAL YOUNG ARTISTS COMPETITION IN ORGAN PERFORMANCE

The National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance promotes the highest level of organ performance. The competition serves as a springboard for emerging young organists, allowing them to continue to develop their performance ability by participating in the various demanding stages of this competition. Established in 1950 and held biennially, the competition is open to organists between the ages of 22 and 32.

The 2011–2012 NYACOP was conducted in four rounds. Twenty applicants were accepted as official competitors based upon their submitted recordings and applications outlining their recital experience and demonstrating their readiness for the rigorous performing demands of the first-prize winner. In the anonymous, recorded elimination round that followed, seven NYACOP competitors were selected to advance to the semifinal round, which was hosted by the Cleveland (Ohio) Chapter at the Cleveland Museum of Art on May 25. Three finalists were chosen to participate in the final round, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, on July 1, at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville.

Judges for the final round were Wilma Jensen, Sandra Soderlund, and John Chappell Stowe, AAGO, CHM. Major support for the 2011–2012 NYACOP was provided by Karen McFarlane Artists, John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, Kegg Pipe Organ Builders, the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company, the Cleveland (Ohio) AGO Chapter, and the Nita Akin Competition Fund.

Repertoire, officials rules, and application form for the 2013–2014 NYACOP can be found on the AGO Web site, Agohq.org, and will appear in the September 2012 issue of The American Organist Magazine.

NATIONAL COMPETITION IN ORGAN IMPROVISATION

The National Competition in Organ Improvisation advances the art of improvisation by recognizing and rewarding superior performers in the field. Improvisation is the pinnacle of achievement for a musician who can combine the elements of performance and composition simultaneously in the creation of a new work of art. Since 1990, the AGO NCOI has motivated and inspired hundreds of the most talented organists in America. Today, it is the preeminent competition in North America dedicated to preserving and advancing improvisation at the organ, and is open to all regardless of age or country of citizenship.

The 2011–2012 NCOI began with a preliminary recorded round in the fall of 2011. Five semifinalists were selected as official competitors in January 2012. Semifinal and final rounds, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, were held at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville.

Judges for the semifinal and final rounds were Matthew Dirst, Pamela Ruitter-Feenstra, and Todd Wilson. Major support for the 2011–2012 NCOI was provided by McNeil Robinson, Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra, and David and Robin Arcus.

A flourishing tradition of improvisation has always been fundamental to a truly vital musical culture. Although musical extemporization has enjoyed a rich heritage in Europe for many centuries, the art form is in perilous risk of extinction in America except among a few organists and jazz musicians. As the premier competition for organ improvisation in America, the NCOI continues to set the standard for organists seeking to demonstrate their skill in extemporaneous performance, the highest and most challenging musical art form.

Biographies of the 2011–2012 competitors can be found in the September 2011 (NYACOP) and April 2012 (NCOI) issues of The American Organist Magazine.