AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation

The National Competition in Organ Improvisation seeks to further the art of improvisation by recognizing and rewarding superior performance in the field. A flourishing tradition of improvisation is fundamental to a truly vital musical culture.

The competition is open to all organists regardless of age, citizenship, or AGO membership. Applicants who do not reside in the U.S. are responsible for understanding and complying with U.S. visa requirements as well as travel costs where applicable. First-place winners of a previous NCOI are not eligible. The NCOI occurs biennially and commences with a recorded Application Round followed by a semifinal and final round held in conjunction with the National Convention. The 2020 Semifinal and Final Rounds that were planned for the 2020 Atlanta Convention have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans are now being developed for alternative rounds to be held in 2021.

Prizes: First Place – $5,000, a CD recording on the Pro Organo label, and a promotional video, both distributed by Naxos of America, Second Place – $3,000, Third Place – $2,000, Audience prize – $1,500.


Kalle Toivio, 2018 NCOI First Place Winner

Kalle Toivio received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2017. Kalle Toivio is the organist and director of music at the Church of Notre Dame in New York City. He is the founder and sub-dean of the Finland Chapter AGO, and a member of the organ faculty at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege. For more than seven years Kalle Toivio studied with the late McNeil Robinson. Listen to a PIPEDREAMS On Stage program featuring Kalle Toivio!

This video was recorded live June 11, 2019 at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City. Kalle Toivio creates a spontaneous three-movement organ symphony!


Kalle is a sought-after lecturer and recitalist. In September, 2018, he gave a lecture, master class, and recital at the Sibelius Academy, in Helsinki, Finland.

A special note to chapters—hosting an AGO competition winner is the perfect chapter event! Kalle lives and works in New York City, and he is available for recitals or improvisation workshops. For more information, contact Kalle Toivio or AGO Headquarters.


Past NCOI Winners

2018 Kalle Toivio First Place
Robert Horton Second Place and Audience Prize
Douglas Murray Third Place.

2016 Thomas Dahl First Place and Audience Prize
Matt Gender Second Place
Kalle Toivio Third Place

2014 Patrick Scott First Place and Audience Prize
Douglas Murray Second Place
No Third Prize was awarded

2012 Robert Nicholls First Place
Patrick Scott Second Place and Audience Prize
Douglas Murray Third Place

2010 David Baskeyfield First Place and Audience Prize
Herbert Buffington Second Place
Robert Nicholls Third Place

2008 Jason Roberts First Place
Steven Ball Second Place
Herbert Buffington Third Place and Audience Prize

2006 Tom Trenney First Place and Audience Prize
Vincent Carr Second Place
No Third Place awarded

NCOI Past Prizewinners

NCOI Committee
Cindy Lindeen-Martin, DMA, Director Email
Jason Roberts Email
Mary Newton Email

Contact AGO Headquarters