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. 2024 NCOI Official Rules.
First Place – $5,000 funded by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, Champaign, Illinois. A CD recording on the Pro Organo label and a promotional video, both distributed by Naxos of America.
Second Place – $3,000 funded by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Lake City, Iowa.
Third Place – $2,000 funded by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra.
Audience prize – $1,500 funded by David Arcus.
2022 NCOI First Place Winner
The 2022 NCOI began in fall 2021 with the initial Application Round which was conducted by recording. Five semi-finalists were selected to participate in the Semi-final Round on July 2, 2022 at Plymouth United Church of Christ in Seattle, WA. After the Semi-final Round, three finalists were selected to compete in the Final Round on July 6, 2022 at Epiphany Parish of Seattle. Both the Semi-final and Final Rounds were held in conjunction with the 2022 AGO National Convention. Robert Horton was awarded the first place prize.
Robert Horton is organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA. Prior to his appointment at Trinity, he served as interim chapel organist at Duke University, and from 2005 to 2008 he was director of keyboard studies at Dordt College, where he taught organ, history, and solfège, and directed the college jazz band. Horton holds degrees from Cornell, Northwestern, and the University of Kansas. As a Fulbright scholar, he studied at the Conservatoire National de Région in Toulouse, France. His playing has garnered numerous accolades, including highest honors at the 2007 Mikael Tariverdiev Competition in Kaliningrad, Russia, as well as second prize and Audience Prize in the 2018 NCOI.
2022 NCOI First Place Winner’s CD: On Impulse
Robert Horton is introduced to listeners worldwide in this new release from Pro Organo. The organ is the newly-installed pipe organ by Martin Pasi, Opus 28, in St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, Virginia USA. Dr. Horton offers us improvisations in diverse styles, including contemporary and French Classic, in addition to his adaptations of music by Bach and Mendelssohn.
2020 NCOI First Place Winner’s CD: Form and Function
Ivan Bosnar, the 2020 First Prize Winner in the American Guild of Organists’ National Competition in Organ Improvisation, makes his debut album on the Pro Organo label with a program that combines symphonic -romantic organ literature by Saint-Saëns, August Ritter and Charles Koechlin, with 6 improvisations (4 intermezzi, a set of variations on Regina Coeli, and a passacaglia and fugue). The organ is a historic restoration updated with some modern attributes by Parsons Pipe Organ Builders.
A special note to chapters—hosting an AGO competition winner is the perfect chapter event! For more information, contact AGO Headquarters.
2022 Robert Horton First Place
Nara Lee Second Place
Ethan Haman Third Place & Audience Prize
2020 Ivan Bosnar First Place and Audience Prize
Samuel Gaskin Second Place
No Third Prize was awarded