July 25, 2008
NEW YORK CITY—The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is pleased to announce the results of its 2008 professional certification examinations. Sixteen candidates passed the upper-level academic examinations: there were five successful candidates in the Fellowship (FAGO) examination, the Guild’s highest-level examination. They were Howard Gerald Aultman, Benjamin Bachmann, Jan-Piet Knijff, Robert Nicholls, and Justus Parrotta. Eight candidates received the Associateship (AAGO) certificate, and three received the Choir Master (ChM) certificate. Twenty-seven candidates received the Colleague (CAGO) certificate—three of these candidates also received dual certification with the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM). Sixty-five candidates were awarded the Service Playing (SPC) certificate—nine of whom also received dual NPM certification.
The AGO presents up to four cash prizes each year to candidates who demonstrate outstanding performance on the certification examinations. The Fellowship ($500), Associateship ($400), and Choir Master ($400) prizes are presented to those who earn the highest scores in these examinations. The S. Lewis Elmer Award ($400) is presented to the individual who earns the highest overall score on any of the upper-level exams. In order to qualify for any of the examination awards, a candidate must take the complete examination at one time and achieve an overall score of at least 85%. The names and biographies of the new Fellows and prizewinners follow.
S. Lewis Elmer Award
JAN-PIET KNIJFF, FAGO
South Salem, N.Y.
JOEL VANDERZEE, AAGO
Grand Rapids, Mich.
JEREMY CHESMAN, AAGO, ChM
The AGO PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION PROGRAM dates from 1896, when the American Guild of Organists received its charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York to administer a comprehensive series of examinations for professional certification. The following certificates are offered under the auspices of the AGO Committee on Professional Certification: Service Playing Certificate (SPC), Colleague (CAGO), Choir Master (ChM), Associateship (AAGO), and Fellowship (FAGO). While the lower-level Guild examinations (CAGO and SPC) test competence in a number of skills that an organist uses regularly, such as hymn playing, accompanying, and sight-reading, the more advanced examinations also test the candidate’s literacy and musicianship at a higher level. For example, tests in writing counterpoint, accompanying from a figured bass, and essay questions in music history are included in the upper-level exams.
"Today, with diminished opportunities for the study of organ and sacred music in colleges, the Guild examinations are needed more than ever: to assist in raising the competency of church musicians, to set a standard of excellence, and to grant recognition for the personal achievements of members who pass the Guild examinations at every level," notes Joyce Shupe Kull, fago, chm, AGO National Councillor for Education and past director of the AGO Committee on Professional Certification. Approximately 13% of the AGO membership is certificated. Of those, 46% hold the Service Playing Certificate; 28% hold the Colleague; 7% hold the Choir Master; 17% hold the Associateship, and 6% hold the Fellowship.
HOWARD GERALD AULTMAN, FAGO, is professor of music theory at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex., where he occupies the Dick Baker Chair of Music Evangelism and Missions. Since 1996, he also has been organist at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Howard Aultman holds the bachelor of music degree from Mississippi College (1976), where he studied piano with Ralph Taylor and organ with Billy Trotter. In 1978, he received the master of church music degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with emphasis in piano performance. In 1983, he earned the doctor of philosophy in music education degree from Louisiana State University, where he studied piano with Dan Sher and Milton Hallman. Additional studies include seminars in piano pedagogy with Robert Pace at Teachers College of Columbia University, and organ studies with John Schuder. Most recently, he has studied organ with Gerre Hancock. Dr. Aultman serves as adjudicator, performer, and teacher at church music conferences, and is a published arranger for organ and piano.
BENJAMIN BACHMANN, FAGO, is assistant director of music at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He works with the choristers in rehearsals and small groups, plays the organ, and assists in conducting the cathedral choirs. A native of Akron, Ohio, Benjamin Bachmann received his first organ training there with Robert Quade. He was the recipient of the Emilie Spivey Scholarship at Clayton College and State University in Atlanta, Ga., where he studied with Richard Morris. He was assistant organist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, and associate director and composer for Impromptu, a civic choir in Atlanta. Mr. Bachmann received his master’s degree at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Margaret Phillips, and was the recipient of the Walford Davies Organ Prize there in 2004. During his time in London, he was organ scholar at St. Paul’s Knightsbridge and Farm Street Church.
JEREMY CHESMAN, AAGO, ChM, is assistant professor of music and university carillonneur at Missouri State University. He studied at the University of Michigan, where his teachers were James Kibbie and Robert Glasgow. Jeremy Chesman earned a bachelor of music degree (with honors) in organ performance in 2000, and graduated with the university’s first master of music degree in carillon performance in 2001. The following year, he studied at the Royal Carillon School of Mechelen, Belgium, as a Fellow of the Belgian-American Education Foundation. He graduated "With Distinction" from that school in 2002. Mr. Chesman is currently a doctoral candidate in organ performance at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, where he studies with John Ditto. He is the organist-choirmaster at St. James’ Church (Episcopal) in Springfield, Mo.
JAN-PIET KNIJFF, FAGO, teaches organ at Queens College of the City University of New York. A native of Haarlem, the Netherlands, he won both the first prize and the audience prize at the International Bach Competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. Jan-Piet Knijff holds the doctor of musical arts degree from the City University of New York, where he is currently a PhD candidate in musicology. A prolific writer, Dr. Knijff was a contributor to The Organ: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 2006). More recent publications include a piece on organ culture in New York for the Dutch magazine, Timbres. His paper on analytical and pedagogical aspects of Bach’s Prelude in E-flat Major (BWV 552) is scheduled for publication in the Dutch Journal of Music Theory. Dr. Knijff has presented workshops and masterclasses on Buxtehude, Messiaen, and 20th-century Dutch composers for AGO chapters in Regions I, II, and III. He is director of music at Emanuel Lutheran Church, Pleasantville, N.Y., and at Union Temple of Brooklyn.
ROBERT NICHOLLS, FAGO, is director of music at the First Presbyterian Church in Evansville, Ind., and is known as an organist, improviser, composer, arranger, and conductor. He started his musical career as a chorister at Westminster Abbey in London, as a music scholar at the Oundle School, and choral exhibitioner at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Robert Nicholls also sang with the choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, for one year after graduation. Family ties and the facilities and people of First Presbyterian Church drew him back to Evansville in 1996, where he had spent a year between high school and college in 1991. As director of music at First Presbyterian, he is responsible for running the choir school music program affiliated with the RSCM, providing for all of the music in worship, and supervising the flute choir, handbell choirs, and special events. He is sub-dean of the Evansville AGO Chapter, and director of a POE (Advanced) scheduled for June 2009, to be presented jointly with the University of Evansville.
JUSTUS PARROTTA, FAGO, is a junior at the Catholic University of America majoring in organ performance. His most influential organ teachers include Diane Heath, Dale Krider, and Edward Alan Moore with whom he currently studies at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. Justus Parrotta serves as organist at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., and performs as accompanist and recitalist throughout the metropolitan Washington area. He has received awards and scholarships from the Delaware, District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia AGO chapters; the National Federation of Music Clubs; the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts; and from West Chester University. During high school, he attended the Knoxville, Atlanta, and Baltimore Pipe Organ Encounters. An avid composer, he has premiered his compositions with the Columbia Pike Community Chorus, the District of Columbia. AGO Chapter, and at Washington National Cathedral.
JOEL VANDERZEE, AAGO, is director of music ministries at the Second Congregational United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids, Mich. He attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition. He recently completed a master’s degree in organ performance at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Joel Vanderzee has served as organ scholar at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as well as organist at Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. His organ teachers have been John Hamersma, Howard Slenk, Karl Schrock, Richard N. Stewart, and Huw Lewis. Mr. Vanderzee is a founding member and director of the Grand Rapids-based vocal octet, the Choral Scholars. His choral compositions are published by GIA and Adoro.
The schedule for the 2009 professional certification examinations will be: Service Playing Certificate test: October 1, 2008, through April 30, 2009; Colleague: November 14, 2008, May 15, 2009, and November 13, 2009; Choir Master: June 3, 2009; Associateship and Fellowship: June 4–5, 2009. A detailed list of examination requirements is available from AGO National Headquarters and online at www.agohq.org. Please call 212-870-2311 (ext. 4303) or e-mail email@example.com for further information.
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.