AGO/Marilyn Mason Award in Organ Composition

The AGO/Marilyn Mason Award in Organ Composition is held every two years. Originally known as the AGO/Holtkamp Award, the competition began in partnership with the Holtkamp Organ Company in 1984. In 2012, Marilyn Mason became the new sponsor. The winner of this competition receives a $2,000 prize, publication of the piece by Hinshaw Music Inc., A Fred Bock Music Company, and a world premiere performance at the AGO National Convention.  This competition is biennial and calls for a work for organ solo; the specific requirements vary each year the competition is held. The present procedure calls for proposals for the commission of an organ solo work. Rather than prescribed criteria, the competition encourages proposals that reflect a composer’s particular strengths and interests.  A finished piece may also be submitted if it meets the criteria of the guidelines.

Award: $2,000 cash prize provided by Marilyn Mason, publication by Hinshaw Music Inc., and a premiere performance at the 2020 AGO National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Listen to awarded compositions from past competitions.

The 2020 competition guidelines were published in the April, 2018 issue of The American Organist. Joel Peters of Montreal, Quebec was awarded the 2020 award. His piece, Eine Wolke nahm ihm Weg, will be premiered at the 2020 AGO National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

2018 AGO/Marilyn Mason Award in Organ Composition

Mark Kurtz

Mark Kurtz is a composer, pianist, organist, and music director. Originally from North Dakota, he has lived and worked in Omaha since 2000. He is known for being adept in a broad spectrum of genres, including both art music and popular music. A sought-after performer and inventive creator, his work can be found in concert halls, churches, theaters, cabarets, and convention centers.

Mr. Kurtz’s colorful, multi-stylistic compositions have been performed at GALA international choral festivals (Miami in 2008 and Montréal in 2004), regional conventions (Nebraska Choral Directors Association in 2016 and AGO Southeast in 2011), many churches and community choruses from Washington, D.C. (2014 and 2012) to St. Paul, MN (2017) to Los Altos, CA (2006), and locally by organizations like Gallup (2017 and 2016), Circle Theater (2017), Résonance (2016), the AGO (2016 and 2015), Horizons of Faith (2011), and the River City Mixed Chorus (2014, 2008, and 2007). A choral piece was featured on the radio broadcast “Going Beyond Words.” (2012)

Mark’s 2018 commissioned piece is entitled “Re-formations (after Bach).” His work combines the traditional and non-traditional in surprising ways. In “Re-Formations (after Bach),” three chorale preludes were paired with 20th century popular music and dance styles. Bach’s famous pedal line of “In Thee Is Gladness” became a trumpet fanfare, with the new pedal line acting as a walking bass. The rapid figurations in “Where Shall I Flee?” were elongated enormously to become a slow-drag blues melody, while the chorale tune was compacted into material reminiscent of silent-film-era theater organ music. The chorale phrases of “Beloved, One and All, Rejoice” were reorganized into a Sonata-Allegro form, with Bach’s setting presented in the rhythms of a hip-hop dance. What does hip-hop have to do with Sonata-Allegro? Or a German chorale with silent movie music? Very little: Finding a way to bring together disparate elements is the hallmark of his work.


AGO/Marilyn Mason award winning pieces available from Hinshaw Publishing

2016 AGO/Marilyn Mason Award—The Moonpiper, Hinshaw Music HMO193, by Ivan Božičević
2014 No prize was awarded
2012 AGO/Marilyn Mason Award—Festive Voluntary, Hinshaw Music HMO191, by Nicholas O’Neill
2010 AGO Award—Theme and Variations on Le P’ing, Hinshaw Music HMO190, by Michael Bedford
2008 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, Hinshaw Music HMO187, by Rachel Laurin
2006 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Six Sketches on Children’s Hymns, Hinshaw Music HMO183, by Barrie Cabena
2004 AGO/Holtkamp Award—A Sweet for Mother Goose, Hinshaw Music HPO3009, By George Akerley
2002 AGO/Holtkamp Award—What Wondrous Love Is This, O My Soul?, Hinshaw Music HMO179, by Emily Porter
2000 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Song of Ruth and Naomi, Hinshaw  Music HMV116, by David Arcus
1998 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Confitemini Domino, Hinshaw Music HMO175, by Carlyle Sharpe
1996 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Fantasia and Fugue on St. Theodulph, Hinshaw Music HMO173, by Aaron Hunt & Three Spirituals for Palm Sunday, Hinshaw Music HMO174, by Robert Greenlee
1994 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Variations Sur Un Vieux Noel, Hinshaw Music HMO171, by Timothy Tikker
1992 AGO/Holtkamp Award—That Line Which Is Earth’s Shadow, Hinshaw Music HPO3008, by Ellen Harrison
1990 AGO/Holtkamp Award—A Practical Progam for Monks, by Frank Ferko
1988 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Variations for Organ and Percussion, by Martin Matalon
1986 AGO/Holtkamp Award—Perceptions of Antiquity, Hinshaw Music HMO153, by Timothy Kramer
1984 AGO/Hotkamp Award—What Seraphs Are Afoot, Hinshaw Music HMO148, by Ingrid Arauco

Committee on New Music
Louise Mundinger, MM, Director  Email
David J. Hurd, Jr., MusD  Email
Carol Feather Martin, MM Email
Alexander Meszler, MM  Email

Eileen Hunt, AAGO, DMA, ex officio (Vice President/Councillor for Competitions and New Music)  Email

AGO Headquarters  Email