AGO Colleague Certification

For organists who have already received service playing certification or have service playing proficiency, the Colleague certification 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 mastery of all aspects of the organist’s art, 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 2020. The CAGO exam is 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).  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 2019 CAGO exam will be available after July 1, 2019 with a deadline of September 15, 2019. Applications for the May 2020 exam are available after December 1, 2019; the application deadline for the May 2020 exam is March 1.

  • 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.

pdf-large-typeManual of Procedure for the Colleague Exam

pdf-large-type100 Strategies for Successful AGO Certification

pdf-large-typeDetailed Professional Certification Requirements (2020)

pdf-large-typeAGO Bibliography for Examination Preparation

Performing Colleague Repertoire

Performing repertoire pieces and accompanying anthems, solos, and hymns require highly developed skills and are an essential part of the certification exams. Many colleague candidates will be encountering the current year’s repertoire pieces for the first time. As a general practice procedure, candidates should start by listening to a new piece while playing it slowly, analyzing what is heard, and familiarizing oneself with its background while gaining a firm grasp of the appropriate style  elements. Each year, articles by certification committee members appear in The American Organist Magazine. The articles focus on the specific study and practice aspects of the current year’s exam repertoire.

Grading Criteria for AGO Certification

Repertoire:  Awareness of stylistic period; imagination and musical excitement; phrasing and articulation; rhythm; tempo, note accuracy; registration.
Sightreading: accuracy of notes and rhythm, keeping a steady beat without hesitations – tempo is moderate, not rushed or halting.
Hymnplaying:  Accuracy; rhythm, sensitivity to text via registration and articulation, leaving space for breathing, consistent spaces between stanzas, harmonizations that enhance singing but do not get in the way of singing or message of hymn text.
Transposition:  accuracy of notes and rhythm, keeping a steady beat and maintaining voice lines and voice leading.
Accompanying:  Accuracy of notes and rhythm, attention to text and breathing places for singers, care in registrations so that support is provided without being aggressive,  awareness of dynamics, tessitura and voice-leading – then, interpreting accordingly.
Harmonization / Modulation:  Good voice leading, ease with keyboard harmony and sense of rules of counterpoint; form [use of motive, sequence, 4 & 8 measure balanced phrases, having a “plan” without meandering].
Following directions is a key factor.

Past Colleague Exams

2019 Colleague Exam
2018 Colleague Exam
2017 Colleague Exam
2016 Colleague Exam
2015 Colleague Exam

Study Guide for AGO Colleague Certification
Preparing for AGO Certification (reprints of articles from TAO magazine)

For more information or to request an application, contact AGO Headquarters, Email or 212-870-2311, ext. 4303. Purchase this year’s repertoire at Lois Fyfe Music or Cliff Hill Music.