July 25, 2008
NEW YORK CITY — The American Guild of Organists (AGO), the world’s largest professional association of organists and choral conductors, as well as the largest organization on the globe dedicated to a single musical instrument, has elected EILEEN GUENTHER as its president. The membership of the AGO includes approximately 20,000 professional organists, choral conductors, music educators, organbuilders, clergy, and afficionados. In speaking of the election and her plans for the future, President Guenther remarked:
"Having been involved with the AGO for many years, I deeply appreciate the impact the Guild has had on musicians and the institutions we serve. We are in a period when the roles of the organ in society and the musician in the church and concert hall are evolving. It is a thrill for me to be able to draw on my experience as a church musician, seminary educator, recitalist, and university professor to help guide the AGO at this critical point in history."
A resident of Vienna, Va., and former minister of music and liturgy at Foundry United Methodist Church, the spiritual home of the President of the United States during the Clinton administration, Dr. Guenther is only the third woman in the 112-year history of the AGO to hold the distinguished office of AGO President.
"I have a passion for the organ and for the houses of worship and institutions it serves. I am a team-builder and am committed to the concept that ‘all of us are smarter than any of us.’ Through discernment and consensus, I look forward to visioning with the AGO National Council and the membership about ways we can best fulfill our mission statement."
The president is the chief executive officer of the Guild; coordinates the work of the Guild in the area of Headquarters administration; and presides at all national meetings of the Guild, the National Council, and the Executive Committee. The president or a designee is an ex-officio member of the executive committees of all local AGO chapters, and of all special and standing committees of the Guild, with the exception of the Nominating Committee.
"I have several ideas I would like to pursue over the next two years. One, is for the AGO to become a more market based organization, assessing the needs of the church as well as the teaching studio and the concert hall, and equipping our members with the skills they actually need to work in these venues today. Two, I would like to see more outreach to choral conductors, particularly those who direct church choirs, as a way for the AGO to support these individuals and, at the same time, broaden its base of support and its influence. Three, I would like to see organists and choral conductors valued by their employers as the artists they are and for the dedication they bring to their ministry. The concept of ‘clergy-musician teamwork’ must be strengthened. Fourth, I would like to see ‘leaves added to the table’ for a broader acceptance of music from other cultures besides the standard Western European-based repertoire. Finally, I hope that we can always operate out of a spirit of hospitality to welcome into the Guild all interested people, regardless of their musical skill level, the kind of instrument they play, or the type of institution they serve."
Dr. Guenther was installed at the AGO Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 25, 2008, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. She will serve for a term of two years, July 1, 2008–June 30, 2010, and will be eligible for nomination and re-election for two additional and consecutive terms.
"After my term as president is completed, I would like to be remembered as someone who made a difference, who enabled the gifts of all involved in Guild leadership to be used effectively, and who broadened the influence of the American Guild of Organists in society at large. As described in the AGO’s mission statement, the organ’s role is indeed both ‘historic and evolving.’ I am honored to be leading the team of gifted people that make up the AGO National Council as we together discern the best ways to meet the challenges of our time."
EILEEN GUENTHER has held leadership roles in the American Guild of Organists for many years. She has served as dean of the Washington (D.C.) Chapter, and was chair of the 1982 AGO National Convention in Washington. As a member of the AGO National Council, she has been councillor for organizational concerns, councillor for professional development, and vice president. She is a national and international organ recitalist and has performed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. She is featured on recordings with Etherea Records, the U.S. Air Force Orchestra, Vista Records (London), and Foundry Records. For many years, Eileen Guenther was the host of an award-winning radio program, The Royal Instrument, broadcast on Washington’s WGMS.
Dr. Guenther is associate professor of church music at Wesley Theological Seminary and professorial lecturer in music at the George Washington University. At Wesley, she teaches music and worship courses, conducts the Chapel Choir, and serves as director of Oxnam Chapel and the Summer School program. As an extension of her music ministry, Dr. Guenther leads workshops nationally for musical and denominational organizations. She has just returned from conducting at her third General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Tex.
In June 2007, Dr. Guenther concluded a distinguished career at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. She was minister of music and liturgy for more than 30 years and designed the church’s 60-rank Casavant sanctuary organ in 1984. Under her leadership, the Foundry Choir appeared at United Methodist General Conference twice and sang at the Baltimore–Washington Annual Conference on many occasions. The Foundry Choir also sang at the White House numerous times and was described in a review by The Washington Post as "one of Washington’s best choruses." With repertoire ranging from Bach to Beveridge, these singers presented an annual Concert for Life, raising more than $600,000 for organizations that serve those living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa and in the Washington area.
Eileen Guenther has served as visiting lecturer at Africa University in Zimbabwe. In May 2007, she was part of the global praise team that taught music and worship in Uganda for representatives from the East Africa Conference of the United Methodist Church. She will be part of a similar team teaching in Ivory Coast in August 2008, and in December will lead her fifth group of Wesley Seminary students on an immersion trip to South Africa.
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.