For organists who have already received service playing certification or have service playing proficiency, the Colleague examination is the next logical step. The CAGO examination consists entirely of your performances, and the examination is like a recital or the musical part of a service of worship, where the organist is expected to perform each item creditably. This examination is designed to test the candidate’s ability to demonstrate mastery of all aspects of the organist’s art on a given occasion, since this is the demand that is placed upon the professional church musician. Membership in the AGO is not required for Colleague certification, however, there is a $100 surcharge for nonmembers.
The colleague exam is entirely practical and has seven basic requirements that fall into two categories: repertoire and keyboard skills. For additional details, see the AGO Professional Certification Requirements for 2017.
- Perform organ literature of moderate difficulty.
- Accompany a choral anthem and a vocal solo.
- Lead and accompany a congregational hymn.
- Sight-read a brief passage of organ music on three staves.
- Harmonize a melody.
- Transpose a hymn-like passage.
- Improvise a simple interlude involving modulation.
To help candidates prepare for the test, The AGO Certification Committee has developed a new edition of the Colleague Examination Study Guidelines ($20). The new study guide is almost 50 pages in length. The study guide can be found in the Certification Exam Study Guides and Materials section of the AGO online store where you will find other resources that will help you prepare. You can also purchase many years of past Colleague Exams in the online store for $5 apiece.
The CAGO exam is only given twice a year – in May and November. The specific dates are published each year in the Professional Certification Requirements. Any chapter of the AGO can administer the exam for you (contact a particular chapter). If you are unfamiliar with the test or how it is conducted see the Manual of Procedure for the Colleague Exam. Currently, the test is recorded, and the recordings are sent to AGO Headquarters for evaluation. Candidates usually receive the results 2-3 months after taking the test; if unsuccessful, you have five years to successfully compete the section you missed. Applications for the November 2016 CAGO exam will be available after July 1, 2016 with a deadline of September 15, 2016. Applications for the May 2017 exam are available after December 1, 2016; the application deadline for the May 2017 exam is March 1.
For more information or to request an application, contact AGO Headquarters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-870-2311, ext. 4303.