The Class of 2017: 20 leaders under the age of 30
The Diapason’s third annual “20 Under 30” selections came from a field that included over 110 nominations. The nominees were evaluated based upon information provided in the nominations; we selected only from those who had been nominated. We looked for evidence of such things as career advancement, technical skills, and creativity and innovation; we considered a nominee’s awards and competition prizes, publications and compositions, and significant positions in the mix. Our selections were not limited merely to organists but reflect the breadth of our editorial scope, which includes the organ, harpsichord and clavichord, carillon, and church music. Here we present the winners’ backgrounds and accomplishments, and then have them tell us something interesting about themselves and about their achievements, goals, and aspirations.
One candidate was nominated and selected, after which it was determined the nomination contained an erroneous birth date. The candidate has an exemplary list of accomplishments to his credit; however, because he is now above the age of 30, we had to remove him from our list of 20. We are grateful for his graciousness in this process. This experience proves that all persons who submit nominations to our 20 Under 30 program must ensure that they provide accurate and confirmed birth dates for all nominees! The staff of The Diapason determined this year’s class would thus have 19 people, not 20.
In order to assure that future classes of our 20 Under 30 program continue the level of excellence of our previous three classes, the staff of The Diapason has decided that this will now be a biennial event. Nominations will again open for 20 Under 30 in December 2018 for our Class of 2019. Please carefully consider those you may know that deserve this honor and begin to take notes for your nomination. We can only honor those who are nominated.
The Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA) is graciously providing a one-year subscription to our 20 Under 30 Class of 2017.
Bryan Anderson is a native of Georgia. Currently working toward a master’s degree at Rice University under Ken Cowan, Anderson’s undergraduate work was at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he earned degrees in organ (studying with Alan Morrison) and harpsichord (with Leon Schelhase). A rising concert artist, he has performed at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, Woolsey Hall at Yale, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Princeton University Chapel, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. He has been featured in performance at conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. His recent positions have been as organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, as well as serving as an assistant organist of the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Macy’s department store for several years. During 2015–16, Anderson held the post of organ scholar at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England. He serves as an organist at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. In addition to work as an organist, Anderson has enjoyed extensive collaboration as a chamber musician, performing many times as a continuo artist and ensemble pianist. His website is www.bryan-anderson.com.
An interesting fact: I make hobbies of longboarding and studying ancient Akkadian.
Proudest achievement: I am most proud of becoming a competent improviser (by my own standards). It was not something I was exposed to early in training, and it is relatively recently that I feel confident in that skill set, especially liturgically.
Career aspirations and goals: One of my goals is to build church music in a place that doesn’t already enjoy a great program. If I could help make something “from the ground up,” I would consider it really useful and enjoyable work. I also aspire to be in a position (academic, ecclesiastical, or unofficial) where I could regularly present curated concerts. A concert with some kind of focus can be more rewarding than a “touring” recital program, and I would like to have more outlets in that direction.
Juilliard-trained organist David La’O Ball (BM 2014, MM 2016) serves as organist and assistant director of music at Christ Cathedral in Orange, California (formerly Crystal Cathedral). David is a well-lauded young performer—The New York Times declared his appearance in Juilliard’s FOCUS! Festival “a rousing performance,” and his performances have been broadcast on American Public Media’s Pipedreams and New York City’s WQXR.
As part of a wide-ranging musical vision for 21st-century collaboration—a vision cultivated during his time studying at Juilliard with Paul Jacobs—Ball is committed to making the “King of Instruments” play well with others. He has spearheaded a number of chamber recitals, performed as an orchestral musician, and commissioned multiple new works for the organ. His website is www.davidballorgan.com.
The only thing matching Ball’s passion for performance is his commitment to liturgical music. From his earliest days as organ scholar under John Romeri at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Ball played and accompanied the basilica’s choirs in performances across the country and in Rome, Italy. While at Juilliard, he worked as the assistant director at St. Malachy’s—The Actors’ Chapel. Currently, as Christ Cathedral organist, Ball’s music underpins an array of services and events, accompanying the cathedral’s choirs and supporting the diocese’s diverse congregation.
An interesting fact: I only just got my driver’s license after moving to California. Starting to drive as a Southern California driver probably wasn’t the easiest introduction to the skill. Also, I’ve always been deathly afraid of roller coasters—but since my new job is essentially down the street from Disneyland, I’ve been working towards conquering that fear. Actually, the driving has helped, I think. There are plenty of similarities between riding roller coasters and driving in Southern California traffic—high speeds, sharp turns, sudden stops, especially the way I drive!
Proudest achievement: Probably my degrees—I earned both my Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees at the Juilliard School in New York City. It was an incredible amount of work, and there were plenty of times when it certainly didn’t seem like I’d ever make it through, but I did! Ear training with Mary Anthony Cox and all!
Career aspirations and goals: Being a church musician is my passion. I love playing recitals and concerts, but I grew up as a church musician, and in the midst of a big liturgy, or a small, intimate one, is where I truly feel most fulfilled. I’m living the dream right now as a cathedral organist, and could only hope to continue doing what I’m doing, and perhaps to have a cathedral program of my own to run someday.
Viktoria Franken started organbuilding in 2008 at H. P. Mebold in Siegen, Germany, where she was trained in the historic craft of organbuilding and as tonal assistant. She also attended the Oscar Walcker School for Organbuilding in Ludwigsburg, Germany, where she earned a certificate of completion as well as a certificate of apprenticeship in organbuilding from the chamber of crafts in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2012 she began work at Killinger Pfeifen, Freiberg, Germany, where she mastered special skills in assembling and prevoicing reed pipes.
Since 2015 she has worked for John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders in Champaign, Illinois, as a tonal assistant. She is responsible for soldering, pipe repairs, racking, and pipe-related woodworking. She is being trained in all aspects of voicing and placement of pipes in the organ.
An interesting fact: I love being out in my yard gardening, growing vegetables, as well as cooking.
Proudest achievement: Growing up in a small village and working in a five-person shop, I never imagined being anywhere else other than in Germany. Now I live in the United States and work at places I just knew from television previously. I’m proud having this awesome opportunity and loving what I do for work.
Career aspirations and goals: I want to become a voicer! Creating sounds that will touch people deep in their souls and make them feel them just like I was touched by sounds as a little kid.
Christopher Grills is leading a multifaceted career as clavichordist, harpsichordist, church musician, opera director, and tuning and temperament scholar. Grills’s special affinity for the clavichord has brought him to attention on the international music scene. In 2013 he performed on the clavichord at Musica Antiqua a Magnano in Italy, and in May 2017 he will perform at the Nordic Historical Keyboard Festival in Finland.
Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Grills is the first student in North America to pursue graduate studies focused on the clavichord. He earned his Master of Music in historical performance at Boston University under the tutelage of Peter Sykes and received a full-tuition scholarship to pursue his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the same institution. He has been featured in interviews in The Joplin Globe and in Tangents, the bulletin of the Boston Clavichord Society.
Grills is a collaborative keyboardist and performs harpsichord continuo with the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra and the Boston University Baroque Orchestra. He is currently co-directing the Boston premiere of the Hasse opera Alcide al Bivio with the Harvard Early Music Society. He is organist at First Congregational Church in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
An interesting fact: At age 12, I wrote a historical monologue on Thomas Jefferson and performed it in period costume, which won an award in a competition called National History Day. I was later invited to reprise it at the annual Fourth of July celebration at the U.S. National Archives.
Proudest achievement: My proudest achievement is overcoming the limitations of my autism, learning how to interact with and love others, and getting to where I am in life now. I feel like I’ve become an inspiration for other young people with disabilities—nothing can stop us from achieving our dreams!
Career aspirations and goals: I plan to continue to professionally promote, on both a local and global scale, an interest in and awareness of historical performance practices in all musicians at all levels of musical instruction, as well as the broader inclusion of the clavichord in the 21st-century musical scene. Upon completing my doctorate, I hope to secure a music director position that can provide the financial stability to pursue my dreams and a venue to create and inspire music among congregants and the general public alike. I aim to eventually direct my own Baroque orchestra and perform and record lesser-known solo keyboard, chamber, orchestral, and opera works.
Nathaniel Gumbs is a native of the Bronx, New York, and is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree, studying with David Higgs at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He received the Master of Music degree in organ performance from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and the Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from Shenandoah Conservatory, Winchester, Virginia. His former teachers include Martin Jean and Steven Cooksey. As a young artist, Gumbs has performed recitals throughout the United States and has played many historic instruments in Paris and Rome through Shenandoah Conservatory and in Berlin, Munich, and Leipzig through the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His playing has been described by music critics as “mature, lyrical, accurate, and energetic.” Nathaniel was recently mentioned in the New York Times for playing with “deft and feeling” on his duo recording with bass-baritone Dashon Burton. In April 2016, he was featured on the American Public Media broadcast Pipedreams Live!. Gumbs has also earned Service Playing and Colleague certifications from the American Guild of Organists. He is currently the director of music and arts and church organist at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
An interesting fact: I love fine dining experiences, traveling, and playing gospel music on the piano!
Proudest achievement: My proudest achievement is being accepted to two of the finest institutions for organ and sacred music (Yale and Eastman) and studying with two awesome pedagogues (Martin Jean and David Higgs). Another proud achievement is serving as director of music for Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest African American churches in North Carolina.
Career aspirations and goals: I plan to have a thriving career as a concert organist, teach at a major conservatory, and be a significant figure in church music.
A native of Talladega, Alabama, Christopher Henley serves as organist of Anniston First United Methodist Church, where he provides service music for the traditional worship services, manages the Soli Deo Gloria Concert Series, and accompanies various vocal and instrumental ensembles. Prior to his service at Anniston First United Methodist Church, he served as organist of the First United Methodist Churches in Talladega and Pell City, Alabama. He is the founder and artistic director of The Noble Camerata, an auditioned vocal ensemble that sings choral services in the Anniston, Alabama, area and seasonal concerts. Henley also serves on the faculty of the Community Music School of the University of Alabama, where he is an instructor of piano. Henley is currently a senior in pursuit of the Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance at University of Alabama, where he studies with Faythe Freese. He is an active member of the American Guild of Organists and University of Alabama Music Teachers National Association. For the AGO, he was appointed as a member of the executive board for the AGO Young Organists initiative for the Southeast Region.
An interesting fact: Growing up, I worked with my father in our family business, Talladega Auto Parts. I stocked shelves, managed office work, and worked with customers. Even now, I work with my dad during my off-seasons!
Proudest achievement: Being named a member of the 2017 class of “20 Under 30” alongside several friends and colleagues is a tremendous honor.
Career aspirations and goals: I desire to work full-time in a church music program, either as organist or organist and choirmaster. While I enjoy performing recitals, I feel a deep calling to a life of service in the church.
Jeremy Paul Jelinek is an undergraduate in the organ studio of David Higgs at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Thanks to an exchange program, in 2016–2017 he studies interprétation d’orgue (performance) with Olivier Latry and Michel Bouvard and organ improvisation with Laszlo Fassang at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris (CNSMDP). While in France, he maintains an active concert schedule.
Sacred music is his purest joy; he is interested particularly in early music. Jelinek has developed a rigorous study and a passion in French Classical organ music, having given classes on this subject. He is student at l’École du Chœur grégorien de Paris, where he studies interpretation, semiology, and history of chant, singing offices and Masses. As a church musician, he has held various positions at Calvary Church, St. Andrew’s Church, and St. Anthony’s Chapel (Pittsburgh), and Christ Church (Rochester). He is the recipient of several organ competition prizes and awards. Jelinek “interpret[s] . . . with aplomb . . .
demonstrating impressive technical facility” (The American Organist, September 2016) and “play[s] with elegance and assurance” (The Diapason, November 2016). He is also a composer, notably of choral works, and has written for several ensembles.
An interesting fact: I am most inspired in all aspects of my life as musician by the ancient chant melodies and the vast body of choral and instrumental music that chant has influenced.
Proudest achievement: Studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris (CNSMDP).
Career aspirations and goals: As a performer, it is my sincerest hope, amidst this complicated world, to transcend hearts and minds towards something greater. As a church musician and leader, I want to share all that I have with others, and in doing so, preserve tradition and nurture music of the highest quality.
American organist Weston Jennings is quickly establishing himself as a talented and engaging international performer. Having first encountered the pipe organ at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp (Michigan) at the age of 16, he later graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy. At the Eastman School of Music, Jennings earned his Bachelor of Music degree and the Performer’s Certificate. In May 2017, he will graduate from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music with his Master of Music degree.
Prior to his graduate studies, he completed two years in England as the organ scholar of Canterbury Cathedral and Chelmsford Cathedral. During this time, he was also appointed the first organ scholar to the Royal Festival Hall, London.
His organ teachers include Thomas Murray, Michel Bouvard, Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, and Thomas Bara. Following his recital debut at the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.) in 2009, he has performed across the United States and Europe, including Westminster Abbey (London), St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (New York), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Los Angeles), the Chapel of the Queen’s College (Oxford), Royaumont Abbey (France), and the Berliner Dom (Germany).
His website is www.westonjennings.com.
An interesting fact: I own a small collection of typewriters from just after the Second World War. Occasionally, I put them to good use, and type letters to friends and family.
Proudest achievement: Earning the Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music.
Career aspirations and goals: Following graduation from Yale, I aspire to further develop my concert career, as well as continue my work as a sacred musician. Teaching has always been a particular joy for me, and I would like this to play a larger role in my future career.
Jerin J. Kelly has been working for Goulding & Wood of Indianapolis, Indiana, since the summer of 2012. Prior to that, he was a student at Herron School of Art & Design, where he earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in furniture design. Since starting at G&W he has been active in the construction of two new organs, Opus 50 in Lexington, Kentucky, and Opus 51 in Mobile, Alabama. He has also worked on numerous renovations and major repairs. His responsibilities in the shop include building off-note chests, expression boxes, general structure, and pipe racking. In addition to building pipe organs, he also leads a service crew, tuning and maintaining about 200 pipe organs in the eastern United States.
An interesting fact: I play guitar and harmonica in an Americana group called Bigfoot Yancey. Our first full-length album, Hills, was released on April 28.
Proudest achievement: My proudest achievement is at the end of any organ installation—seeing these beautiful architectural-scale instruments in their environment, and knowing that I’m part of a crew that can pull off such a project. As an art school graduate, finding myself in the company of such talented craftsmen is quite an achievement.
Career aspirations and goals: My goals are to get better at what I do, to become a more efficient builder and more knowledgeable technician. I’ve been in this profession for five years. There’s still a lot to learn.
Edward Landin is a graduate of the St. Thomas Choir School, Interlochen Arts Academy, and
Westminster Choir College. His principal organ teachers have been Thomas Bara and Ken Cowan. Further studies and coachings have been with Roberta Gary, David Higgs, Susan Landale, Marie-Louise Langlais, Kimberly Marshall, Paula Pugh Romanaux, Kathleen Scheide, and Carole Terry.
Currently the assistant director of music at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, his duties include directing numerous children’s and handbell choirs and serving as principal accompanist for the 65-member Sanctuary Choir. In addition to recitals at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and St. Thomas Church in New York City and Old West Church, Boston, Landin has also performed in France, Germany, and Wales.
A major interest in contemporary organ music, particularly by American composers, led Landin to commission E, Fantasia, and Parodies by Kathleen Scheide; Praeludium and Psalm 139 by Pamela Decker; Prelude on the Carillon d’Alet by Craig Phillips; and Exordium by Carson Cooman. A collection of Landin’s own compositions, Flourishes and Reflections—Organ Music for Service or Recital was recently released by Lorenz. More information may be found on his website: www.edwardlandin.com.
An interesting fact: I am a major animal lover (currently have two dogs and two cats) and a longtime figure skating fan. Michelle Kwan’s autograph is one of my prized possessions!
Proudest achievement: The recent publication of some of my compositions by Lorenz was a wonderful achievement for me. I hope it’s only the beginning of my work as a composer.
Career aspirations and goals: Each piece I have commissioned by Carson Cooman, Pamela Decker, Craig Phillips, and Kathleen Scheide has been a wonderful experience. Keeping the organ alive includes adding new and fresh repertoire to all the wonderful music that is already out there.
Christopher Lynch is Fellow in Church Music at Trinity Cathedral, Portland, Oregon. He sang in the boy choir at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, before attending the American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey. Lynch studied organ performance at Indiana University (IU), where his teachers included Janette Fishell, Bruce Neswick, Jeffrey Smith, and Christopher Young. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from IU.
Before coming to Trinity, Lynch served on the music staff of Episcopal churches throughout the country, including St. Mark’s Cathedral (Shreveport, Louisiana), Trinity Church (Bloomington, Indiana), and St. Paul’s, K Street (Washington, D.C.). In these appointments, he has been mentored by such noted church musicians as Bruce Neswick, Robert McCormick, and Marilyn Keiser.
A member of the American Guild of Organists and the Association of Anglican Musicians, Lynch is a frequent staff member for the Royal School of Church Music’s summer courses, including RSCM Pacific Northwest, where he has served as course organist.
An interesting fact: When not on the organ bench, I love hiking and exploring the limitless beauty the Pacific Northwest has to offer!
Proudest achievement: I find myself most proud as a teacher. In the several music programs that I’ve been a part of where boys’ and girls’ choirs are one of our main areas of focus, I find there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing the development of a chorister and getting to introduce them to music that is hugely important to me and will hopefully be equally important to them in their lives.
Career aspirations and goals: I aspire to be an organist/choirmaster for a large, vibrant church music program like the many I’ve been privileged to be a part of as a chorister and organist.
Patrick Parker is minister of music and organist at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Charles, Louisiana, artistic director of Houston Baroque, and artistic director of Renaissance Southwest. He can be heard on recordings through Raven: Houston Baroque’s My Soul Sees and Hears featuring music by Buxtehude and Handel; Rheinberger: Songs and Sonatas with Katie Clark, mezzo-soprano; and the complete works of van Eijken (winter 2018). As a concert organist, Parker’s repertoire includes the complete solo organ works of Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and others. Major performance venues include St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Grace Episcopal Church (New York City); Cathedral of St. Philip (Atlanta); St. Cecilia Cathedral (Omaha); Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and Christ Church Cathedral (Houston); Trinity Cathedral (Cleveland); Grace Church Cathedral (Charleston); Cathedral Church of St. John (Albuquerque); La Madeleine (Paris); Wells Cathedral (England); Nieuwe Kerke (Amsterdam); Auferstehungs-kirche and Michaeliskirche (Leipzig); and Michaeliskirche (Hamburg). In 2015, Parker resided in Leipzig and performed on historic organs throughout Europe. He holds degrees from Cleveland Institute of Music and University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Doctor of Musical Arts in organ performance from University of Houston. His website is: www.patrickaaronparker.com.
An interesting fact: I grew up in a very small town in North Carolina, and as a child I loved country music and wanted to be the next Vince Gill. I did not really know what classical music was until I was 16 or so, and never heard or saw an organ until I was a freshman in college! Now I’ve gone to the other side of the spectrum and love listening to Bruckner and Wagner (especially Parsifal).
Proudest achievement: I am always proud when I get to expose people to organ and church music and share my passion with them. The greatest source of pride for me comes from first-time performances of masterworks. There is something very special, vulnerable, and memorable in asking an audience to sit with me and share time together while we go through the process of a major cyclical work. I played Bach’s Clavierübung III during Reformation in 2010; playing Messiaen’s Les Corps Glorieux in Memphis recently was another very special experience. I’m looking forward to doing Messiaen’s Harawi with my friend, soprano Julia Fox, this summer and Livre du Saint Sacrement next season.
Career aspirations and goals: I get to wake up every day and do what I love for a living. My biggest goal is to remember that and stay grateful for the absolutely wonderful life I have. I believe that if I can stay in gratitude and focus on connecting with others through music, the rest of my career will fall into place organically.
Nicholas Quardokus is a first-year student in organ in the Master of Music degree program at the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music, New Haven, Connecticut, where he studies with Martin Jean. Quardokus concurrently serves as organ scholar at Trinity Church on the Green, New Haven, as well as at Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. A recent graduate of Indiana University, he completed his Bachelor of Music degree with highest distinction at the Jacobs School of Music with a major in organ performance and minor in early music, studying with Janette Fishell. Solo performances have included recitals throughout the Midwest and East Coast, including the American Guild of Organists Region V Convention in 2013 and a “Rising Star” recital at the AGO National Convention in Boston in 2014. In 2014, he was awarded first prize and hymn prize in the Young Professional Division of the Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition. In addition, he was one of the featured organists at the 2015 Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. His performances have been heard broadcast across the nation on public radio’s Harmonia Early Music and Pipedreams.
An interesting fact: In my spare time I enjoy baking, especially chocolate chip cookies and focaccia bread.
Proudest achievement: My proudest achievement has been working for the parishes I’ve served thus far, in Indianapolis and New Haven. Whether it be something special, like being the organist for a tour of English cathedrals, or something more routine such as playing Sunday services or helping train choristers, my hope has been to make a small, subtle difference by living out my vocation each day. That’s what I find extremely rewarding.
Career goals and aspirations: My goal for my career is first of all, to be a church musician. I feel very strongly that church music is as important an effort and vocation as anything we can do as organists. I hope someday to be a part of a parish that trains both children and adults to be good musicians and good people. My goal is to create music that does not merely enhance worship, but rather music that is an integral part of worship.
Latvian Brazilian Cristiano Rizzotto is a doctoral candidate at the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma, under John Schwandt, and is the organist and choirmaster at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Golden Valley, Minnesota. He holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Magna cum Laude, 2010), where he studied under Miriam Grosman (piano) and Alexandre Rachid (organ). He was awarded second place at the XVIII ArtLivre National Piano Competition in São Paulo.
Before moving to the United States, Rizzotto served as titular organist at the Benedictine Abbey in Rio de Janeiro, where the monks have kept the tradition of the chants and liturgy alive since 1590. The abbey organ, built in 1773 and later expanded in the 20th century, is one of the oldest organs in South America.
Rizzotto moved to the United States to study with Andrew Scanlon at East Carolina University, and earned a master’s degree in sacred music in 2013. He became a published composer when his Toccata was released by Wayne Leupold Editions in 2014. He is an active recitalist, having performed in 20 American states, Europe, and South America. Cristiano and Clara Rizzotto married in Alaska in 2015 and are expecting their first child to be born this summer. His website is www.cristianorizzotto.com.
An interesting fact: I am fascinated by the aurora borealis, and that is one of the reasons behind my constant, lifelong pursuit of the North. Other reasons are that I love cold, and winter is my favorite season of the year. I even started learning Bokmål as a result of this passion for all things Northern. A funny fact: When I did my master’s audition at ECU, I had just heard of the existence of organ shoes. I auditioned wearing regular shoes, and the jury called me up front afterwards to take a closer look at my footwear. I remember the surprise of one of the jury members: “How can you play Langlais wearing that?”
Proudest achievement: I am proud to be happily married to my dear Clara, who is an accomplished medical physicist, an incredible Renaissance woman, and a supportive and truly wonderful person. She is an incalculable blessing in my life.
Career aspirations and goals: My aspiration is to contribute to the enrichment of the organ and choral music landscape in liturgical and performing contexts. One way to do this is to continue to present Latvian repertoire for organ and choir to audiences throughout the world. The history of Latvia, the Singing Nation, is deeply connected to music that ennobles the people and strengthens their faith. Another way of doing this is to continue to promote talented musicians through the International Concert Series I established in the Twin Cities and by connecting musicians throughout the world for concerts in the United States and abroad. Finally, I want to keep working with choirs, adults and children, teaching them chant and the Church’s inestimable treasure of sacred music, which reflects the beauty of the Eternal.
Sarah Simko, a master’s degree student at the University of Michigan, studies organ with Kola Owolabi. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, where she studied organ with Nathan Laube, Edoardo Bellotti, William Porter, and Hans Davidsson. During her time at Eastman, she also studied harpsichord with Bellotti and Porter. A native of Rochester, Michigan, she was a scholarship winner of the Detroit Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in 2008, 2010, and 2011. She has since been invited back as a member of the jury. Sarah was recently named the winner of the Schoenstein Competition in the Art of Organ Accompaniment, hosted at the University of Michigan this past March. She was also the recipient of the 2010 Marilyn Mason Young Musician’s Scholarship from the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. She has performed in masterclasses with Marilyn Mason, David Wagner, Ken Cowan, Bruce Neswick, and Olivier Latry. Simko is currently the organ scholar at Christ Church Cranbrook. Previously, she held positions at Bethany Presbyterian Church, Greece, New York, and University Presbyterian Church, Rochester, Michigan.
An interesting fact: I got my first bottle of crazy nail polish in the second grade: neon blue! Since then, I have developed quite the collection, and a penchant for fancy toe nails. I’d paint my fingers, but the crazy designs are too distracting when practicing!
Proudest achievement: I have been very fortunate to travel quite frequently for musical reasons. Growing up, my high school church choir at University Presbyterian Church went on a spring tour every year. After graduation, I was invited back as an accompanist and assistant director. With the Agape Singers, I have been to New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Ireland, and Scotland. Whenever we travel, we visit major attractions, but perform in smaller, more intimate venues. It is a truly humbling experience to share the gift of music with people from all walks of life at these concerts. The shared joy is a constant reminder of why music is such an important art. As an undergraduate student, I was able to travel to Northern Germany for the Arp Schnitger organ competition, first as a registrant and later as a competitor. It is impossible to not fall in love with those instruments or the repertoire! The colors of those instruments have a way of sticking with you and driving your creativity to find those sounds long after you return home. Now as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, my colleagues and I are preparing for an amazing trip to France this summer! Cavaillé-Colls, here we come!
Career aspirations and goals: I would like to be an organ professor at a university someday. I have had and continue to have the most amazing mentors and teachers. They have always supported me in all my endeavors without quelling my musical ideas. They are a constant reminder of what it means to work hard and to work for others. I want to be a mentor for future students and inspire them to pursue their dreams.
The meticulous technique, innate yet highly mature musicality, and constant musical engagement exhibited by Joshua Stafford compelled the jury of the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition to name him, out of 12 stellar competitors, the Pierre S. du Pont First Prize Winner of this illustrious event, earning him a cash award of $40,000. Already in demand as a recitalist and improviser, Stafford has performed at many notable venues. His recital at the 2015 conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians was hailed as “technically flawless yet exceptionally nuanced and spontaneous.” Recordings of his performances have been aired on American Public Media’s Pipedreams and WRTI’s Wanamaker Organ Hour.
A native of Jamestown, New York, Stafford received the Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2010 as a student of Alan Morrison. In 2012 he received his Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music as a student of Thomas Murray and Jeffrey Brillhart.
Stafford is director of music at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey, where he conducts an RSCM-based program with choirs of boys, girls, and adults. The chorister program is paired with an after-school outreach program for the city’s underserved children, offering excellent music education at no cost.
An interesting fact: When I was in high school, I played for a weekly AM radio show on a Hammond spinet, broadcast live from a Friendly’s Restaurant!
Proudest achievement: I’d have to say winning the Longwood Gardens competition, especially while maintaining a full-time church job!
Career aspirations and goals: My goal is really to continue doing what I do now, maintaining a balance of church work and a recital career. I feel very fortunate to be in a parish that has been incredibly supportive of both the program here and of my performing. It’s so rewarding to see the progress of choristers and to be able to have daily rehearsals singing much of the great Anglican choral repertoire!
Michael Sutcliffe grew up in Tolland, Connecticut, only minutes away from the organ shop where he would eventually begin his career. He has had a lifelong passion for music and began studying guitar at age eight. Relentless tinkering also defined his early years. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2010 with a degree in sociology and came to work at Foley-Baker, Inc., starting in the leather shop. Upon returning to UConn part-time for a Master of Business Administration degree, he was promoted to general manager at Foley-Baker. Since then, he has overseen all of Foley-Baker’s major reconditioning projects, ensuring they are completed on time and under budget.
An interesting fact: I enjoy riding motorcycles, even in the chilly Connecticut weather.
Proudest achievement: Being a part of the team that reconditioned the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in Portland, Maine. Standing on stage with the rest of the Foley-Baker crew during the dedication was surreal.
Career aspirations and goals: I’d like to open more regional Foley-Baker branches and eventually turn the company into a nationwide chain of full-service locations.
Brian Tang is an associate carillonist at the University of California, Berkeley. He studied carillon as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley with Jeff Davis, and later with Geert D’hollander. Since his induction into the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America in 2010, he has given recitals across North America and Europe, including at the International Carillon Festivals in Springfield (2013) and Barcelona (2016). In the 2014 Queen Fabiola International Carillon Competition at Mechelen, Belgium, he was awarded second prize and the SABAM (Belgian Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers) prize for the best interpretation of a contemporary Belgian work. Brian Tang regularly produces carillon arrangements and transcriptions, one of which received first prize at a contest for the 2016 GCNA Congress at Yale University. In addition to the carillon, he plays the piano and is an erstwhile cellist.
An interesting fact: I have been an appreciative host to a family of chinchillas for the past few years.
Proudest achievement: Live music is such an ephemeral art, and carillonneurs are physically removed and usually anonymous to their audience, so it’s particularly rewarding when somebody can recall a performance from the distant past and tells me that I impacted their day.
Career goals and aspirations: My goal as a performer is to share under-appreciated music and assist with the development of the carillon as a concert instrument. One day, I hope to contribute original compositions to the carillon repertoire.
Janet Yieh, 24, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, is pursuing her Master of Music degree with Thomas Murray at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, New Haven, Connecticut. She also serves as organ scholar at Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green, New Haven, under the direction of Walden Moore, and as director of music at Berkeley Divinity School. Yieh is a graduate of the Juilliard School (Bachelor of Music degree in organ, 2015) and former assistant organist of Trinity Church, Wall Street in New York City.
Winner of the 2015 Franciscan Monastery and Washington, D.C., Chapter of the American Guild of Organists Young Organist Competition, as well as the 2015 Northern Virginia and Potomac and 2013 Philadelphia AGO Quimby competitions, Yieh performs around the United States and Asia, with highlights including Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, Washington National Cathedral, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and Momoyama St. Andrew’s University Chapel, Japan. As a collaborator, she has accompanied the Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center and NOVUS NY Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and she has premiered new music for the organ. Her playing has been broadcast on Pipedreams, New York’s WQXR and WWFM stations, and is featured on two CD recordings. A pianist from age 4 and violinist from 7, Janet began organ lessons at 11 with a scholarship from the Potomac Organ Institute. She is a member of the Association of Anglican Musicians and has earned the Colleague certificate of the AGO. Former teachers include Paul Jacobs, John Walker, Wayne Earnest, and Victoria Shields. Her website is www.janetyieh.com.
An interesting fact: I’m allergic to cats, avocados, and cats named Avocado!
Proudest achievement: Twice a week at Trinity Church, I teach our youngest third and fourth grade choristers, and I’m the proudest when I see how truly excited those brilliant, funny kids get about music and those lightbulb moments.
Career aspirations and goals: I have a long wishlist of repertoire I’d like to learn, from Clavierübung III to Duruflé and transcriptions, and I hope to always continue learning, performing, and sharing the music that I love with audiences! My music teachers and church community encouraged me to pursue the organ, and I aspire to give back in those same ways by bringing the excellence of our conservatory training to service playing, choir training, and hopefully one day directing music in my own parish or cathedral!