Each year, many AGO members receive certification of their service playing skills with the Service Playing Test. The Service Playing Certificate is recognized by many churches and employers as a guarantee of proficiency at the organ and brings organists many professional benefits. The test is entirely practical, and the required skills come into play at the worship service(s) you play each week.
The content of the Service Playing Test follows the order of a Sunday worship service and has six basic parts. For additional details, see the AGO Professional Certification Requirements for 2017:
- Play three organ pieces chosen from a list of works from different historical periods. For example, your pieces might be a fugue from one of Bach’s Eight Little Preludes and Fugues, a movement by Mendelssohn, and a short contemporary work.
- Choose two hymns from the 2013 Revised AGO Examination Hymn Booklet, and play two stanzas of each as though accompanying a congregation.
- Transpose a hymn, again from the AGO booklet, no more than a whole step up or down (you can choose the hymn and work it out in advance).
- Play the accompaniment to a psalm chant, taken from the AGO hymn booklet.
- Play two anthems chosen from those listed in the certification requirements.
- Sight-read a short passage of music.
To help candidates prepare for the test, The AGO Certification Committee has developed the Service Playing Test Study Guide ($20) as an educational resource for service playing candidates. The study guide is almost 60 pages in length and comes with a CD containing musical examples. The study guide can be found in the “Certification Exam Study Guides and Materials” section of the AGO online store where you will find other resources that will help you prepare; you can also use this quick order form. Additionally, the committee has created the Examination Hymn Booklet that contains most of the hymns that candidates need for the test. This booklet is available as a PDF from the Certification Administrator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any chapter of the AGO can administer the service playing test for you at a mutually agreeable date between October 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017—contact a particular chapter. If you are unfamiliar with the test or how it is conducted see the service playing Manual of Procedure. Currently, the test is recorded, and the recordings are sent to AGO Headquarters for evaluation. Candidates usually receive the results 2-3 months after taking the test; if unsuccessful, you may retake the test at any time. Request an application after July 1, 2016; the application may be submitted between September 1, 2016 and February 1, 2017: email@example.com or 212-870-2311, ext. 4303. Membership in the AGO is not required.