July 19, 2004
NEW YORK CITY—The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is pleased to announce the prizewinners in the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI). Semifinal and final rounds of the competition were held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, Calif., in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, July 4–9. Five semifinalists were selected from the preliminary, tape round; three were chosen for the final round. Each competitor was required to (1) improvise in any form, based on a given theme; and (2) improvise in the form of a Theme and Variations based on a given hymn tune, chant, or chorale. The following competition prizes were awarded at the convention banquet on Wednesday, July 7:
LUKE MAYERNIK, AAGO
$2,000 cash award provided by the Holtkamp Organ Company
$1,500 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd.
ROBERT P. RIDGELL
$750 cash award provided by Mary Louise Herrick, AAGO, CHM
LUKE MAYERNIK, AAGO, was born and raised in Monessen, Pa. He studied organ and organ improvisation at Duquesne University with Ann Labounsky. Mayernik is music director at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Grensburg, Pa. He is also active as a composer, and his music has been broadcast on WQED-FM, Pittsburgh’s classical music station. He is currently studying organ with Edgar Highberger at Seton Hill University.
JASON ROBERTS was born in South Carolina, the son of two pianists. He spent much of his childhood in Perth, Western Australia, where he was a chorister at St. George’s Cathedral. Upon his family’s return to the U.S., he began studying the organ with Ben Hutto and he later attended Rice University, where he studied with Clyde Holloway. He is a graduate of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, where he was a student of Martin Jean. In the fall, he will enter the doctoral program at the Manhattan School of Music as a student of McNeil Robinson. Roberts is also an accomplished cellist, having performed with the Macon Symphony and the Charlotte Youth Symphony orchestras.
ROBERT P. RIDGELL is director of music at the Philadelphia Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and is the assistant director of the Princeton Girl Choir. Until his appointment in Philadelphia, Ridgell was associate director of music at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, where he was the director of the Eccles Organ Festival. He has performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and Korea, and is a prolific composer and improviser. As a conductor, Ridgell has prepared choristers for performances with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Royal School of Church Music in America, and the Utah Symphony. As a singer, he has performed under the direction of Sir David Willcocks, Paul Hillier, Ricardo Muti, Charles Dutoit, and Sir Colin Davis. A native of Charlotte, N.C., Ridgell studied at the Indiana University School of Music and Westminster Choir College. His organ teachers include David Lowry, Marilyn Keiser, and Stefan Engels.
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 premiere 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. Judges for the semifinal and final rounds were Emma Lou Diemer, Peter Krasinski, and Craig Phillips. Major support for the 2004 National Competition in Organ Improvisation was provided by Ann Labounsky, FAGO, PHD, in honor of the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. #
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.