July 2, 2008
NEW YORK CITY—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 prize winners were recognized on Wednesday, June 25, 2008, at the AGO Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with the 49th biennial AGO National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
NATIONAL YOUNG ARTISTS COMPETITION IN ORGAN PERFORMANCE
Twenty-four applicants were accepted as official competitors in the 2007–2008 NYACOP in June 2007, 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 Knoxville (Tenn.) AGO Chapter on May 14, 2008, at the University of Tennessee. Three finalists were chosen to participate in the final round, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, on June 22, 2008, at St. Mark’s Cathedral in downtown Minneapolis. The following competition prizes were awarded:
The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $2,000 cash award and career development assistance provided by Karen McFarlane Artists; a CD recording by Pro Organo; and a performance at the 2010 AGO National Convention in Washington, D.C.
Audience Choice Prize
$500 cash award provided by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company
$2,000 cash award provided by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders
$1,000 cash award provided by the Noack Organ Company
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. Major support for the 2007–2008 NYACOP was provided by Karen McFarlane Artists; John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders; the Noack Organ Company; the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company; the Knoxville (Tenn.) AGO Chapter, host of the semifinal competition round; and by the AGO Nita Akin Competition Fund. The judges for the taped round were Jesse Eschbach, Faythe Freese, and Jay Peterson; judges for the semifinal round were Douglas Cleveland, Sarah Hawbecker, and Carole Terry; judges for the final round were Kimberly Marshall, John Obetz, and Peter Sykes.
NATIONAL COMPETITION IN ORGAN IMPROVISATION
Five semifinalists were selected as official competitors in the 2007–2008 NCOI, which began with a taped round in January 2008. Semifinal and final rounds, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, were conducted at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minn., and at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. The following competition prizes were awarded:
$2,000 cash award provided by the Holtkamp Organ Company
$1,500 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.
$750 cash award provided by Mary Louise Herrick, AAGO, CHM
Audience Choice Prize
$1,000 cash award provided by David and Robin Arcus, and McNeil Robinson
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 pre-eminent 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.
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 AGO NCOI continues to set the standard for organists seeking to demonstrate their skill in extemporaneous performance, the highest and most challenging musical art form. Major support for the 2007–2008 NCOI was provided by the Holtkamp Organ Company, Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., Mary Louise Herrick, David and Robin Arcus, and McNeil Robinson. Judges for the taped round were Aaron David Miller, Catherine Rodland, and John Schwandt; judges for the semifinal and final rounds were Marie Rubis Bauer, Marie-Bernadette Dufourcet Hakim, and Paul Manz.
STEVEN BALL, Fulbright scholar and doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan School of Music, is widely known both as an organist and as a campanologist and carillonneur. Recognized especially for his work on the interpretation and scholarship of silent films, Mr. Ball is one of fewer than a half dozen organists in the world to hold a staff organist position at a movie theater. He is the premiere organist for the world’s first concerto for theater organ and orchestra, and the first person ever to accompany a silent film on the carillon. In addition to his duties as staff organist of the Michigan Theater and as organist at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lansing, Mich., he is currently carillonneur at the University of Michigan, where he performs and teaches.
HERBERT BUFFINGTON is organist at Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, Ga. He received the bachelor of arts degree from Duke University, studying organ with Robert Parkins and Fenner Douglass. He earned the master of music degree from the Peabody Institute as a pupil of Donald Sutherland, and studied in Europe with Peter Planyavsky. He is a past secretary, sub-dean, and dean of the Atlanta AGO Chapter, and also served on steering committees for the 1992 AGO National and the 2007 AGO Region IV Conventions, both held in Atlanta. Currently, he is director of the AGO’s Committee on Membership Development and Chapter Support.
MONICA HARPER, a native of Ocilla, Ga., earned an AB degree in accounting, piano and organ (2004) from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., and an MM degree in church music (2006) from Baylor University in Waco, Tex. Her teachers include Fletcher Anderson, Joyce Jones, and Christopher Young. She has won prizes in the Albert Schweitzer, John Rodland, and William Hall organ competitions. Ms. Harper is an associate instructor of organ and a doctoral student in church music and organ at Indiana University, where she studies with Marilyn Keiser. She is a James M. Barnett Jr. Foundation Scholar.
ANDREW KOTYLO is a doctoral candidate in performance at the Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, where he earned both bachelor and master of music degrees. His doctoral document is on the life and organ works of his former teacher, M. Searle Wright. He has also studied with Carolyn Albaugh, Larry Smith, and Christopher Young. Mr. Kotylo has been first-place winner in several competitions, including the Arthur Poister National Competition and the San Marino Competition. He was a semifinalist in the 2000 NYACOP and a finalist in the 2005 Jordan International Competition.
JASON ROBERTS is organist and choirmaster at St. James’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Conn. A graduate of Rice University and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, he received the doctor of musical arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2008, where he was a student of McNeil Robinson. He is the fourth organist from Robinson’s studio to take top honors in the biennial NCOI since the competition’s founding in 1990.
MICHAEL UNGER is a doctoral student and teaching assistant of David Higgs (organ) and William Porter (harpsichord) at the Eastman School of Music. Prior to completing master’s degrees in both instruments at Eastman, Unger pursued undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario, where he was the recipient of the University Gold Medal. In 2007, he was awarded the Lillian Forsyth and Godfrey Hewitt Memorial Scholarships. A semifinalist in the 2006 NYACOP and the 2004 International Organ Competition in Odense, Denmark, Unger is a chamber musician, published composer, and music director at South Presbyterian Church in Rochester, N.Y.
The AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 19,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist Magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 readers each month.
This information is submitted by F. Anthony Thurman, Director of Development and Communications at the National Headquarters of the American Guild of Organists and The American Organist Magazine. For further information, please contact Dr. Thurman by TEL (212) 870-2310, FAX (212) 870-2163 or E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org.