Eight Prizes Presented to Six Organists at National Convention in Houston, TX

The American Guild of Organists  is pleased to announce the results of its National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) and the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI). Prizewinners were recognized at the 53rd biennial AGO National Convention in Houston, Tex. The following prizes were awarded:

National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance

First Prize—Katelyn Emerson

  • The Jordan Organ Endowment Prize: $10,000, awarded in conjunction with a solo recital on the Jordan Family Organ in Columbus, GA;
  • The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $3,000 cash award and career development assistance provided by Karen McFarlane Artists;
  • a CD recording by Pro Organo;
  • a performance at the 2018 AGO National Convention in Kansas City, MO;
  • and a series of award recitals throughout the US

Second Prize—Kirk Rich

  • $5,000 cash award provided by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Third Prize—Weicheng Zhao

  • $3,000 cash award provided by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

Audience Choice Prize—Weicheng Zhao

  • $1,000 cash award provided by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company
Katelyn Emerson

Katelyn Emerson

Weicheng Zhao

Weicheng Zhao

Kirk Rich

Kirk Rich

National Competition in Organ Improvisation

First Prize—Thomas Dahl

  • $3,000 cash award provided by the estate of McNeil Robinson;
  • a CD recording by Pro Organo

Second Prize—Matt Gender

  • $2,000 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.

Third Prize—Kalle Toivio

  • $1,500 cash award provided by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra

Audience Choice Prize—Thomas Dahl

  • $1,500 cash award provided by David and Robin Arcus
Thomas Dahl

Thomas Dahl

Matt Gender

Matt Gender

Kalle Tovio

Kalle Tovio

National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance

The National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance promotes the highest level of organ performance. The competition serves as a springboard for emerging young organists, allowing them to continue to develop their performance ability by participating in the various demanding stages of this competition. Established in 1950 and held biennially, the competition is open to organists between the ages of 22 and 32.

The judges for the final round of the 2016 NYACOP in Houston were Edoardo Bellotti, Dean Billmeyer, Susan Ferré, James Kibbie, Ludger Lohmann, John Schwandt, and Carole Terry. Major support for the competition was provided by the Jordan Organ Endowment, Karen McFarlane Artists, Kegg Pipe Organ Builders, John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company, the Nita Akin Competition Fund, and the Dallas (TX) AGO Chapter, host of the semifinal round.

National Competition in Organ Improvisation

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 preeminent 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. The NCOI continues to set the standard for organists seeking to demonstrate their skill in extemporaneous performance, the highest and most challenging musical art form.

The judges for the final round of the 2016 NCOI in Houston were David Arcus, Marie Rubis Bauer, Pamela Decker, Marie-Bernadette Dufourcet, David Enlow, Tom Trenney, and David Ashley White. Major support was provided by the estate of McNeil Robinson, Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra, and David and Robin Arcus.

Biographies of the 2016 competitors can be found in the April 2016 (NYACOP) and May 2015 (NCOI) issues of The American Organist Magazine.

Photo credits: Joseph Routon

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