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 or citizenship; it is also open to non-AGO members. 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. Prizes: First Place – $3,000, funded by McNeil Robinson, a CD recording on the Pro Organo label; Second Place – $2,000, funded by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders; Third Place – $1,500, funded by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra; Audience prize – $1,500, funded by David and Robin Arcus.

The 2018 NCOI rules were published in the October-16 issue of THE AMERICAN ORGANIST.  All applications must be submitted online using the application form accessible from this page (below).  The initial application is due January 1, 2017; the accompanying recordings can be uploaded in turn from January 1st to February 10th, 2017.

Add a recording to your NCOI application

2016  NCOI Winners

Three finalists were chosen at the 2015 NCOI semifinals held July 1, 2015 at the  Charlotte SE Regional Convention. The three organists below traveled to Houston, Texas for the NCOI final round that was held June 21, 2016 at Christ Church Cathedral (Houston). Thomas Dahl, was awarded 1st Place and the Audience Prize, Matt Gender was awarded 2nd Place, and Kalle Toivio was awarded 3rd Place.

2016 First Place and Audience Prize
Thomas Dahl studied church music, composition, music pedagogy, musicology and organ performance in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Paris. He studied organ improvisation with Heinz Wunderlich, Willibald Bezler and Daniel Roth. He also received private instructions from Wolfgang Rubsam and Jean Guillou. In six international organ-playing and improvisation competitions he has been a prize winner or finalist. Thomas is Director of Music at Hauptkirche St. Petri in Hamburg and conductor of the Hamburg Bach Choir. He has given recitals, lectures and masterclasses in Europe, the United States and Japan.

A special note to chapters—hosting an AGO competition winner is the perfect chapter event! For more information, contact Thomas Dahl or  AGO Headquarters.

Upcoming recitals


 In October 2014, Thomas Dahl was given several suggested themes from the audience for a possible improvisation. This is an improvisation on a theme offered by Philadelphia composer Chuck Holdeman.

Past NCOI Winners

2014 Patrick Scott First Place and Audience Prize
2012 Robert Nicholls First Place
2010 David Baskeyfield First Place and Audience Prize
2008 Jason Roberts First Place
2006 Tom Trenney First Place and Audience Prize
2004 Luke Mayernik First Place
2002 Peter Krasinski First Place
2000 Justin Bischof First Place
1998 John Schwandt First Place
1994 Jeffrey Brillhart First Place
1992 Ronald Stolk First Place
1990 Bruce Neswick First Place

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