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The Class of 2023: 20 leaders under the age of 30

April 23, 2023
20 under 30

The Diapason’s sixth “20 Under 30” selections came from a large field of nominations. The nominees were evaluated based on 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 to organists but reflect the breadth of our editorial scope, which includes the organ, harpsichord and clavichord, carillon, church music, and organ and harpsichord building. Here we present the winners’ backgrounds and accomplishments, and then have them tell us something interesting about themselves and their achievements, goals, and aspirations.

Nominations will again open for 20 Under 30 in December 2024 for our Class of 2025. 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 2023.

Theodore Cheng

Theodore Cheng is a Hong Kong-born organist and composer with a diverse range of interests and projects that extends well beyond the realm of music. Theodore is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance at The Juilliard School, studying with Paul Jacobs under full funding as a C. V. Starr Doctoral Fellow. Prior to arriving at Juilliard, he attained a Master of Music degree at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, studying organ with Craig Cramer. Theodore is a prizewinner at the 2022 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Young Professional Competition and the 2022 Fort Wayne National Organ Playing Competition, and he has performed across three continents, specializing in pre-Baroque and contemporary repertoire. As a composer, his choral and organ works have been performed by choirs and ensembles in the United States and in Hong Kong.

An interesting fact: I enjoy visiting art museums, and I occasionally sing Gregorian chant in a schola. I also like to cook and have long endeavored to make the perfect French omelette, a goal that has so far eluded me.

Proudest achievement: Through my performances and collaborative projects, in which I endeavor to present a highly varied palette of styles from the Renaissance to the modern day, I feature commissions and my own compositions. I savor the meaningful connections a sincere and heartfelt performance could make between audiences and music that may be familiar or completely new to them.

Career aspirations and goals: I aspire to teach organ, music theory, and music history at the tertiary level and serving as an organ teaching consultant for emerging organ audiences and communities in southeast Asia. A simultaneous aim would be to work as an advocate for new organ music, especially of east Asian composers. I also look forward to spending more time exploring historical organ improvisation and writing choral music.

Website: www.theodorecheng-organist.com.

Asriel Davis

Asriel Davis is a Master of Music degree candidate at Syracuse University studying with Annie Laver. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, he quickly fell in love with music, playing piano and organ from the age of six. He began to show much promise in both instruments by his teen years, accompanying his high school choir and playing all around the metro Atlanta area.

He went on to study under Wayne Bucknor at Oakwood University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in piano performance. With a love for sacred music, Asriel has worked and played for many churches around the nation. He recently worked under James Abbington as organist and pianist at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta. He currently serves as organist for Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York.

Having accompanied world-renowned groups such as The Aeolians of Oakwood University and the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers under the direction of Jason Max Ferdinand, he has shown he is equally suitable for performing solo or accompanying vocalists and choirs. With these groups, Asriel has traveled the nation and around the world playing organs and accompanying. He has played in Europe, South Africa, the Bahamas, and elsewhere. His skill set is vast and varied, ranging from Baroque to modern-era music. Asriel is quickly making a name for himself across genres with his exceptional talent and versatility. With his dedication, he continues to make waves in the music world. Whether performing solo or collaborating with other musicians, his passion for music is undeniable, and his future is bright.

An interesting fact: I love working on cars with my Dad in my free time.

Proudest achievement: I am simply most proud of how far I’ve come on my musical journey.

Career aspirations and goals: I plan to work in the church and teach. I will also work with professional choirs, singing and playing. Another goal is to become a commercial voice actor.

Nathan Elsbernd

Nathan Elsbernd is a church musician who supports community-centered music. He devoted the early part of his career to subbing at various North and Northeast Iowa churches in order to build a broad base of experience. His research focuses on community, hospitality, and their intersections with hymnody. Nathan enjoys interrogating the theology behind the music and texts.

Nathan serves as the first Luther College Church Music Fellow and choir and bell director at Decorah Lutheran Church. While serving as the church music fellow, he has promoted and coordinated the involvement of music students to expand the reach of bi-weekly chapel services. Nathan also works for the Luther College music department as a collaborative pianist, teaches organ lessons through the Luther College Community Music School, and sings in the Nordic Choir. During his time at Luther, he studied with Gregory Peterson and Alexander Meszler. Nathan will receive his Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College in May 2023 as a music major and religion minor.  

An interesting fact: This summer I will be fighting forest fires in Northeast California. 

Proudest achievement: I’m proud of my efforts to help various aging organs sing for their respective congregations that struggle to find organists.  

Career aspirations and goals: I hope to continue researching the intersection between church communities and music and plan to apply the insights learned to the programs at my future church position. I want to collaborate with clergy to help develop new hymns and liturgy settings that are grounded in an inclusive theology for today’s world. I believe that the organ has the potential for great vitality in the future and plan to spend my life promoting easier accessibility to organs and mentoring and teaching young organists.

Dominic Fiacco

Praised for the “remarkable sensitivity in his interpretations” and his “technical mastery” (American Guild of Organists Eastern New York Chapter newsletter), eighteen-year-old Dominic Fiacco has been playing organ since the age of eight. Fiacco studies with Stephen Best, lecturer in music at Hamilton College and organist at First Presbyterian Church in Utica, New York. In May 2018 he performed at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. The following year he played at the Cadet Chapel at West Point, New York, home to the world’s third largest organ. He has also attended several summer intensives in Philadelphia, where he studied with Alan Morrison, who teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music, and with Peter Richard Conte, organist at the Wanamaker Organ in Macy’s, the second largest organ in the world.

Fiacco also studies piano with Sar-Shalom Strong, lecturer at Hamilton College. He has won multiple prizes in several piano competitions and has also performed several times on the Society for New Music’s Rising Stars programs on organ and piano.

The oldest of seven siblings, Fiacco is a homeschooled high school senior who has been accepted to multiple conservatories. He is pursuing a career in
organ performance.

An interesting fact: I like to go on solitary walks in the hills surrounding my rural village, sometimes hiking for a couple of hours at a time. The occasional snowmobiler may ride by, and I may pass through an Amish farm, but otherwise I’m alone. I occasionally stop to take photos of the landscape. Sunsets are especially stunning when viewed from the top of a snow-covered hill.

Proudest achievement: I am grateful to have performed on several major organs, such as the organ at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City and the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. It’s an honor to have played the Wanamaker, with its rich variety of sounds and unique setting. It was awe-inspiring to set hands on the legendary instrument that Marcel Dupré, Virgil Fox, and so many others have admired. I especially like its many rows of string and harp stops.

Career aspirations and goals:  I aspire to land a church job, since I have a strong interest in the liturgy, especially sacred music. I also intend to teach at some point. However, my main goal is to become a concert organist. Performers really have the ability to inspire people. I enjoy making emotional connections with audiences. It’s fascinating how a piece they may have never heard before, such as César Franck’s Prelude, Choral, and Fugue for piano, can resonate with them so much that they begin crying. I’d like to spend my life inspiring thoughts and emotions in people.

Anna Gugliotta

Anna Gugliotta is an organist, pianist, and teacher based in Central New Jersey. She graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University in 2022 where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance studying with Renée Anne Louprette. She was awarded the Elizabeth Wyckoff Durham Award from Rutgers University for excellence in music performance. Upon her graduation, Ms. Gugliotta was appointed full-time director of sacred music at the Parish of Saint Thomas More in Manalapan, New Jersey, where she is principal organist and directs the adult, youth, and handbell choirs. In addition, she also has a passion for teaching and maintains a private piano and organ studio.

Anna Gugliotta participated in the University of Michigan Organ Conference (2019), the Church Music Association of America Sacred Music Colloquium in Philadelphia (2019), and the Catholic Sacred Music Project (2021 in Philadelphia, and 2022 in Menlo Park, California). She was awarded second place in the RCYO competition (Regions I and II) in 2020. Ms. Gugliotta has performed in organ masterclasses with Alcée Chriss, David Higgs, and Stephen Tharp.

An interesting fact: I enjoy doing different craft projects, the latest of which is paint-by-diamond kits. Similar to paint-by-number pictures, a special tool is used to pick up small, plastic “diamonds” and place them on color-coded spaces. It can sometimes be tedious, but I find it to be pretty relaxing, and I like how the final products turn out!

Proudest achievement: One thing that I am most proud of achieving is starting a youth choir at my current church job. Having primarily a keyboard background, it was a completely new experience for me to plan, advertise, form, and rehearse this new ensemble, but it has been a really exciting project! Planning for this choir began last summer, and then the ensemble was formed the following September. I currently have ten children that attend weekly rehearsals and sing at Masses twice each month, plus an additional 15–20 children that joined for Christmas and Easter. The children have successfully sung a variety of music (Gregorian chant, traditional hymns, and contemporary pieces) and especially enjoy singing in Latin! Several of the children are also learning how to serve as a cantor during Mass, and it has been very rewarding to see these children not only excited to learn about music, but also to learn more about their Catholic faith.

Career aspirations and goals: I’m not exactly sure what my future will look like, but I definitely see myself continuing to work in sacred music. I’ve felt like that was my calling since middle school, and I truly enjoy working as a church musician because it combines sharing my personal faith with musical collaboration!

Amelie Held

Known for her red organ shoes, organist Amelie Held quickly became an internationally acclaimed artist. She recently debuted at some of Germany’s major cathedrals and concert halls, such as the Konzerthaus Dortmund, the Philharmonie Essen, and the international Speyer cathedral recital series. Her solo concert activities include performances in the world’s most important music centers, such as Milan, Paris, Zurich, London, Boston, New York, and Saint Petersburg (Mariinsky Concert Hall).

Raised in Munich, Germany, in a non-musician family, Amelie released her debut album in 2019 at the young age of twenty-two. She has won several prizes at international organ competitions and was one of the youngest finalists of the prestigious French Concours International de Chartres (2018). She has a broad repertoire, both as a soloist and with orchestra and chamber ensemble, ranging from early music to contemporary compositions as well as her own transcriptions.

Currently living in New York City, she is pursuing her Artist Diploma studies at The Juilliard School with Paul Jacobs. In addition to music, Amelie is passionate about literature and speaks four languages. In her free time, she indulges in dancing, working out, or riding motorcycles.

An interesting fact: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in violin.

Proudest achievement: I am proud of having followed my passions and dreams of becoming a professional musician, even though it was never an easy path to pursue, especially coming from an entirely non-musical background.

Career aspirations and goals: Simply put, I want to make the organ more popular again and get rid of the many stereotypes that we organists are being confronted with! I hope to free the instrument from its dusted image and make it more accessible to the audience! I want to pass my passion and knowledge about this instrument on to everyone who thinks the organ is boring—and everyone else as well, obviously.

Amelie’s website: www.amelieheld.com; Instagram: amelieheld_org.

Katherine Jolliff

Katherine Jolliff is an organist from Indianapolis, Indiana. She began piano studies at the age of five and started learning the organ in her freshman year of high school with Marco Petricic (University of Indianapolis). After completing her first two years of high school, she finished her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, Michigan. She majored in piano performance and organ performance and studied organ with Thomas Bara. Graduating with honors and the Fine Arts Award in Organ Performance, Katherine is currently attending Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, as an organ performance major studying under David Higgs.

In addition to being declared a winner at an AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists, she has also won first prize in the East Carolina University Young Artists Competition in organ performance (including the Bach Interpretation Prize and the Hymn Playing Award) as well as first place in the 2021 M. Louise Miller and Paul E. Knox Scholarship Competition. Most recently, she won first place in the Immanuel Lutheran Church Organ Scholar Competition in Evanston, Illinois, and the Taylor Organ Competition in Atlanta, Georgia.

An interesting fact: When I’m not practicing, I’m frequently hanging around (quite literally!) in the local circus school practicing aerial silks and other aerial apparatuses. I’m currently teaching both kids and adults who are just starting out on their aerial journeys.

Proudest achievement: I think what I am proudest of varies day to day. While I am of course proud of the competitions and recitals I have done, I find those achievements pale in comparison to the small choices and risks that I do and make daily. I’m proud of myself years ago, who chose to take a risk by trying an instrument that I wasn’t necessarily going to be good at. Despite setbacks and general insecurity, I decided to pursue something that I love with my whole being.

Career aspirations and goals: The end goal of my musical journey is to lead a life that helps inspire other people, both in music as well as in life. I plan to do this through a combination of teaching and performing as well as being a good role model as a musician and as a person.

Alex Jones

Alex Jones is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Houston, Texas, where he studies with Daryl Robinson and holds a graduate teaching fellowship. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, holding a Master of Music degree in organ performance and literature. He earned a bachelor’s degree in organ performance from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, UK.

Before emigrating to the United States, Alex was a recipient of numerous awards including the Birmingham Symphony Hall Organ Scholarship and the Manchester Cathedral Organ Scholarship. Since emigrating, he has gone on to win several major awards including third prize at the 2022 Elizabeth B. Stephens International Organ Competition in Atlanta, George; second prize at the 2017 West Chester University International Organ Competition; third prize of the 2018 Royal College of Organists National Competition; and first prize of the 2017 American Theatre Organ Society’s (ATOS) “Young Artist” Competition. 

He is very active as both a classical concert organist and theatre organist, having performed in major venues across Europe and the United States, including as a featured artist at several ATOS conventions, and is currently serving as organist and choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

An interesting fact: I am a keen amateur sailor, and I love the game of snooker, which is a popular British sport. It’s similar to pool but played on a larger table and is more strategy based.

Proudest achievement: I would say my proudest achievement so far is winning the third prize at the Elizabeth B. Stephens International Organ Competition in Atlanta last year. This was my first really major international competition, and I was not expecting to have been selected as one of the six out of seventy-two candidates for the audition round, let alone to have come away with a prize.

Career aspirations and goals: My aspirations and goals for the future are to become a permanent resident of the United States and to continue my work as a performer, both as a classical and theatre organist, as a church musician, a teacher, and as an organ designer and consultant.

Instagram handle: aj_organist.

Caitlyn Koester

Caitlyn Koester is a harpsichordist and music director active in the early music communities of the Bay Area and New York City. Her international duo, AKOYA, releases its first album of Graupner’s complete sonatas for violin and harpsichord under the ATMA Classique label in fall 2023. Caitlyn holds degrees from the University of Michigan, San Francisco Conservatory, and The Juilliard School, and is on collegiate and pre-college faculty at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Recent engagements include vocal coach and continuo of I Cantori di Carmel’s Vocal Academy and performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio around Northern California, and chamber music with musicians of Severall Friends in Santa Fe and Musica Angelica in Los Angeles.

An interesting fact: I have a two-year-old Great Pyrenees mix named Polyphony!

Proudest achievement: A lot of my proudest achievements are non-musical, but one of my proudest musical achievements thus far is being given the opportunity to teach theory and history classes at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Teaching has always been a vital part of my musical life, and the students at both the pre-college and collegiate level in the SFCM community are extremely talented, positive, and collaborative. It is a joy and an honor to be in my second year teaching at SFCM.

Career aspirations and goals: Teaching and performing have always been equally important parts of my life. I believe that they can maintain a mutually beneficial relationship in a musician’s life, informing and influencing each other with each new concert or class taught, and I hope to further both parts of my career. This winter I have taken DMA auditions in order to continue learning and developing both parts of my musical career, and upon receiving admissions results this spring I will be enrolling in a doctoral program for fall 2023.

Websites: caitlynkoester.com, akoyaduo.com.

Carson Landry

Carson Landry is one of the few students in the world currently pursuing a master’s degree in carillon, studying at the University of Michigan with Tiffany Ng and Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra. Previously, he earned a diploma from the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium, while on a Fulbright scholarship, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music studies from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. His focus is on playing an active role as a musician in movements for social good, diversifying the carillon repertoire through commissioning and performing works by historically underrepresented composers, and improvising, particularly to fulfill audience requests for popular music by diverse artists. 

The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA) awarded him and Grace Ann Lee its Student Composer/Performer Pair Grant, and he serves the GCNA on the Professionalism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and as a typesetter for music publications. A native of Orlando, Florida, Carson has held fellowships at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, and at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon in Springfield, Illinois, and has given concerts in the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Lithuania.

An interesting fact: I’m an avid Trekkie!

Proudest achievement: Peaking a 14,000-foot-tall mountain despite not being athletic in the least.

Career aspirations and goals: I’m pursuing a full-time career in carillon performance.

Social links: https://linktr.ee/carilloncarson.

John Miller

John Miller received his training in pipe organ building through a 3-1⁄2-year apprenticeship under Germany’s dual education system for the trades. He received practical training at Johannes Klais Orgelbau in Bonn and education in organbuilding theory at the Oscar-Walcker-Schule in Ludwigsburg. John earned his journeyman certification in pipe organ building through the Industrie- und Handelskammer Bonn in February 2019 after examination.

In March 2019, John returned to his hometown of Milwaukee and started his own business. Along with maintaining around 100 pipe organs across the state, John’s workshop specializes in the restoration of self-playing mechanical organs (such as organ clocks, orchestrions, and street organs)—with a special emphasis on those operated by pinned cylinders. John is an organ advocate seeking to introduce new audiences to the organ through creative installations of pipe organs and automated mechanical music instruments.

An interesting fact: I am an urban beekeeper and am interested in sustainable homesteading.

Proudest achievement: I passed my journeyman’s exam, got married, and started the organ business all in the same year—then kept the business, still in its infancy, open and growing through the pandemic the following year!

Career aspirations and goals: Several monumental orchestrions were either destroyed in the World Wars or are currently in a state where conservation is more important than functional restoration. I would like to build copies (or close copies) of these instruments so they can inspire audiences once again.

Website: www.MillerOrganClock.com.

Victoria Shorokhova

Originally from Russia, Victoria Shorokhova graduated from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory with diplomas in piano in 2016, studying with Vladimir Shakin, and in organ in 2017, studying with Daniel Zaretsky. In 2019, she earned a master’s degree at Saint Petersburg State University, majoring in historical performance on keyboard instruments (organ, harpsichord, and carillon). In 2022, she received a Master of Music degree in organ performance at Georgia State University, studying with Jens Korndörfer, serving as a music intern at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta during her studies. Starting in January of this year Victoria has been pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance at the University of Houston, studying with Daryl Robinson and holding an organ scholar position at Saint Luke’s United Methodist Church.

Victoria is a laureate of numerous international organ competitions, including the XXVI International Competition of Sacred Music in Rumia, Poland (2014, second prize), and the II International Braudo Organ Competition in Saint Petersburg (2019, first prize and special prize). She has participated in organ academies at Alkmaar, the Netherlands (2013), Graz, Austria (2014), Kotka, Finland (2015), and masterclasses with Ludger Lohmann, Arvid Gast (Germany), Gunther Rost, Johann Trummer (Austria), Iain Quinn (United States), Lorenzo Ghielmi (Italy), and Isabelle Demers (Canada). Victoria actively concertizes in Russia and the United States; her recent performances include venues such as Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Thomas Church in New York City and the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco.

An interesting fact: When I was 16, I created a rock band in about three weeks. We only had one gig, performing some covers on the Beatles’ songs, and I was the lead vocal. Funny, I lost interest to being in a band after this event, and have rarely played guitar since then.

Proudest achievement: I was born in a small settlement in Russia, where the biggest dream would be moving to the regional capital. I couldn’t imagine myself relocating halfway across the planet to continue my education and career development, and I’m proud to be where I am right now. It took a lot of persistence and courage to get to this point, and I will continue working. However, achieving all this wouldn’t be possible without support of my family and many good people that I meet here in the States (and a sparkle of pure luck).

Career aspirations and goals: I love being involved in music making whether it’s playing organ, or piano, or singing in a choir. My major goals are sharing the gift of music as a church musician and a concert performer, and teaching.

Nicholas Stigall

Nicholas Stigall, 22, is a senior majoring in organ performance at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he is a recipient of the Barbara and David Jacobs Scholarship and studies with Janette Fishell. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, he began organ lessons with Edie Johnson at the age of fifteen. Nicholas has been the recipient of many awards in organ performance competitions, including first prize in the 2019 RCYO Southeast Region and second prize in the 2022 Arthur Poister Competition. A passionate church musician, Nicholas currently serves as music intern at Trinity Episcopal Church, Bloomington, Indiana, where he formerly served for three years as undergraduate organ scholar under Marilyn Keiser. He is currently dean of the Bloomington Chapter of the AGO. Additionally, Nicholas was the organ scholar at the Chautauqua Institution for the 2022 season under the direction of Joshua Stafford. Throughout the nine-week season, he assisted in the service music for seven weekly choral services and also played three solo recitals. Nicholas looks forward to returning to Chautauqua again as organ scholar for the 2023 season.

In his free time, Nicholas enjoys exercising and drinking tea.

An interesting fact: I used to be a competitive gymnast and was on the Junior National Team.

Proudest achievement: I am probably proudest of winning the Southeast RCYO in 2019 while still a high school student.

Career aspirations and goals: I have always been equally passionate about performing organ literature and doing sacred music. I aspire to have a career in church music, while concertizing on the side and maybe teaching organ at the university level.

Joel Stoppenhagen

Joel Stoppenhagen is a native of rural Ossian, Indiana. His organ instruction began at age 11, his first teachers being Richard Brinkley and Randall Wurschmidt. In high school, Joel attended Lutheran Summer Music at Valparaiso University for two summers, where he studied with Chad Fothergill. During the summer of 2022 he served on the worship staff of the same program.

In December 2023, following a semester abroad at Westfield House seminary in Cambridge, Joel will graduate from Valparaiso University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. During his time at Valparaiso University, he took lessons with Sunghee Kim and Stephen Schnurr and held several leadership roles in the university’s AGO chapter. He also worked in the university archives cataloging the works of the late Philip Gehring, longtime university organist, and in his work uncovered a transcription of a Langlais improvisation on “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” which was later published in CrossAccent, the journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. His other publications include organ music reviews for The Diapason and a score preface (co-authored with Katharina Uhde and Ryan Gee) for the publisher Musikproduktion Höflich. At the 2022 Association of Lutheran Church Musicians regional conference in Valparaiso, Joel gave a plenary address on the topic of youth and traditional church music and was a panelist for a discussion on the subject. He currently serves as director of music at Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Chesterton, Indiana.

An interesting fact: I grew up on an historic family farm established in 1895. My father and uncle raise beef cattle and all of the typical Indiana crops. I grew up being fascinated with antique farm machinery and equipment—and I still am!

Proudest achievement: I am most proud of my improvisation skills, which I’ve been honing my whole musical career. While I still have much to learn, I am certainly pleased with what I am able to invent.

Career aspirations and goals: Following graduation from Valparaiso University, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in sacred music or organ performance. It is then my intent to work at a Lutheran church, fulfilling my vocation as Kantor. My sole aspiration is to continue to serve Christ’s church through the noble art of music.

Alexander Straus-Fausto

Working on his master’s degree in organ performance at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, New Haven, Connecticut, Alexander Straus-Fausto, from Kitchener, Ontario, is thrilled to be studying under the direction of Martin Jean and playing on Yale’s Newberry Memorial Organ. He completed his Bachelor of Music degree at McGill University Schulich School of Music and his secondary school studies at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy. While still a teenager, Straus-Fausto undertook a Canada Council-funded summer 2019 concert tour of the UK, playing in historic churches and cathedrals. He has further expanded the organ’s reach by creating more than fifty original transcriptions of major orchestral works, reflecting his passion for the symphonic organ as a virtually unlimited medium for artistic expression. This summer he will be one of ten finalists at the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. He has performed at venues such as Washington National Cathedral, Maison Symphonique, Trinity Church Wall Street, and Woolsey Hall. Alex credits his organ teachers, Martin Jean, Hans-Ola Ericsson, Alcée Chriss, Jonathan Oldengarm, Isabelle Demers, Christian Lane, Thomas Bara, Peter Nikiforuk, and Joe Carere.

An interesting fact: I love mountain biking and roller coasters! Like music, they are about movement and excitement.

Proudest achievement: At this point, I am proudest of studying at Yale. I also would not trade the experience of having attended Interlochen Arts Academy for anything in the world.

Career aspirations and goals: My aspiration is to be an organist in a large church in a big city with a great music program, while performing and recording.

Website: alexanderstrausfausto.com.

Andrew Van Varick

Andrew Van Varick is a doctoral student in organ performance and literature at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, under the instruction of David Higgs. Previously, he received his Master of Music degree at Eastman, and he holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Montclair State University, where he studied organ with Vincent Carr and John Miller, piano with Mark Pakman, and harpsichord with Hsuan-Wen Chen.

Andrew has played in coachings and masterclasses with Raúl Prieto Ramírez, Bálint Karosi, Michel Bouvard, Wilma Jensen, Simon Johnson, Ezequiel Menendez, Chelsea Chen, and Alan Morrison. As a recitalist, he has performed on the “Young Organ Artist” series at Central Synagogue in New York City, on the “Wednesdays at Noon” series at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey, and for the Greensburg, Pennsylvania, chapter of the American Guild of Organists. In 2022, he was a semifinalist in the AGO National Young Artist Competition in Organ Performance, and this September will be competing in the Ninth International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo. Currently, Andrew serves as director of music and organist at the Central Presbyterian Church in Geneseo, New York.

An interesting fact: I also work part time at the reference desk of the Sibley Music Library at Eastman, where I frequently assist scholars, musicians, and musical enthusiasts from around the world. It’s a fun gig!

Proudest achievement: To date, my proudest accomplishment was completing my master’s degree.

Career aspirations and goals: My hope is to pursue a career as a full-time organist and director of music. Additionally, I would love to teach organ and give recitals.

Website: andrewvanvarick.com.

Abraham Wallace

Abraham Wallace graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2018 with degrees in music (piano) and geophysics. He began seriously playing the pipe organ near the end of his undergraduate years and decided to pursue the study of the instrument more in depth upon graduation. He completed a Master of Music degree in organ performance from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. While at Yale, Abe served as organ scholar at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church on the Green, Norwalk, Connecticut, and as director of music for Trinity Lutheran Church, Milford, Connecticut. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in sacred music at the University of Michigan, studying organ with Peter Sykes.

Some musical highlights from the last few years include commissioning and performing an organ suite by Ethan Haman as a part of the 2021 American Guild of Organists Student Commissioning Project, curating a virtual evensong service in the height of the covid pandemic, and playing harpsichord in continuo ensembles for various early music projects in both Michigan and Ohio. Wallace is currently the organ scholar at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan, under the direction of Huw Lewis. In his spare time, he enjoys baking bread and making coffee.

An interesting fact: I know how to juggle! And I learned from my mother, who worked very briefly as a clown for hire before starting a family. After having kids, she hung up the proverbial red nose, but kept the costumes. Growing up, our entire family would dress up as clowns for Halloween.

Proudest achievement: My colleagues and I produced a virtual evensong in 2021. We crafted the liturgy, composed all of the music, and recorded everything by ourselves in our spare time. The liturgical and musical fruits of our labor were augmented by the work of a very talented projection designer. While that project was one highlight, more than anything I just feel incredibly lucky to (then and now) be able to make music with so many talented friends and colleagues.

Career aspirations and goals: I have fallen in love with church music and am really hoping to make a full-time career out of the pursuit. Ideally, I would like to hold the position of organist/choirmaster at a church in the United States.

Lynnli Wang

Based in New York City, Lynnli Wang is a talented carillonist, award-winning teacher, and fierce diversity and inclusion advocate. She currently plays at The Riverside Church, which houses a seventy-four-bell carillon, weighing more than 100 tons. Previously, she held the Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music (IU JSOM) carillon associate instructor position, where she built and taught a vibrant carillon studio, dedicated two newly renovated carillons, performed weekly recitals, collaborated with student composers, commissioned a trio of new works by female composers, and authored her second children’s book on carillons. In recognition of her dedication to making the carillon accessible and exciting to performers, listeners, and composers alike, Lynnli was awarded the IU New Music Performance Award, the IU Lieber Memorial Teaching Award, and the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Teaching Award. 

Lynnli’s carillon journey began at Yale University in 2011, where she completed her undergraduate studies in literature. She passed the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA) carillonneur exam in 2014; since then, she has concertized regularly across the United States. To advance the art of carillon, Lynnli serves on the board of the GCNA and various committees, including the Emerging Artist Grant, which provides funding for education, research, and performance opportunities to new carillonists.

An interesting fact: Lynnli’s love of big instruments extends outside carillons to include organs as well. In 2022, she completed her Master of Music degree in organ performance from IU JSOM, where she studied with Janette Fishell.

Proudest achievement: As the performer of a public instrument that can be heard from miles around, Lynnli loves to collaborate with fellow artists to ensure the carillon is an inclusive and welcoming space for all. She regularly mentors student composers, commissions works from underrepresented artists, premieres new pieces (including mixed ensemble works such as carillon plus handbells), organizes joint events with local organizations, hosts panels on inclusive programming, and more. One such collaboration with CBS premiered on prime-time national TV where millions saw Lynnli performing the March Madness theme song on the Indiana University Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon!

Career aspirations and goals: Lynnli aims to build the next generation of carillon lovers by continuing to perform, teach, commission, and collaborate with artists and creatives across different fields. If you ever have an idea for the bells, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Alden Wright

Alden Wright is a student at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree in organ performance with Nathan Laube. As a performer and national young competitor, Alden holds several distinctions, including being named winner of the 2019 Arthur Poister National Competition in Organ Playing and the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Scholarship for undergraduate studies. Alden has performed in many student and solo recitals throughout the United States and England and has participated in masterclasses with many of the world’s top performers.

Alden holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Eastman as well as the prestigious Performer’s Certificate, having graduated with highest distinction in May 2020. Alden most recently served as organ scholar at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall, England, under director of music Christopher Gray from 2021 to 2022. He is currently serving as assistant director of music at Christ Church, Pittsford, New York

An interesting fact: Outside of music, I have a love of cooking and baking.

Proudest achievement: Being awarded the Performer’s Certificate from Eastman in my undergrad.

Career aspirations and goals: I would like to pursue professional and academic routes, hopefully having an opportunity to do both teaching and church music with a bit of performing.

Jonghee Yoon

Jonghee Yoon will begin study with Nathan Laube at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, in fall 2023 for an artist diploma. She is pursuing her master’s degree in sacred music and organ performance under David Arcus and Colin Andrews at East Carolina University and is an organ scholar at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Jonghee graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Ewha Woman’s University, Seoul, studying with Min-Jung Gaang. An active musician, she is a multi-instrumentalist, conducting and playing organ, harpsichord, and violin. She has performed in many parts of the United States, as well as South Korea, the Netherlands, Hungary, Denmark, and Spain.

Jonghee won the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra’s Rising Stars 2022 competition and performed as a soloist with them. She played for the independent movie Cofradia and has been a music director in several musical theatrical productions, including Les Miserables, Lou Andreas-Salomé, and Corpus Delicti. Jonghee played continuo with Saint Peter’s Bach Collegium and solo organ with Gödi Baroque Ensemble in Hungary. She has also worked with organbuilders at C. B. Fisk, Inc., in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she participated in making, designing, installing, and tuning pipes.

An interesting fact: There are multiple interesting facts that you might not know about me. My first musical instrument was violin, and I have been playing violin for at least thirteen years. Moreover, I am bilingual. I speak English and Korean fluently, and I also know the basics of various languages such as French, German, Japanese, and Hungarian. These are a couple of sports that I am most passionate about, surfing in summer and skiing or snowboarding in winter. Furthermore, I am an animal lover. And I also like to volunteer. In Korea, I used to volunteer to help children at Dream Purun school, Hanmaum Rural Children Center in Jelloa-do, Jangsung Women’s High School in Gangwon, and Deung Chon High School for students with special needs.

Proudest achievement: My proudest achievement was being accepted into Ewha Women’s University. I put a lot of effort into applying for this school, and I was so happy as it was my dream to be enrolled there. During my time in Ewha, there were many challenges that I overcame. My colleague and I organized and performed in concerts. I also volunteered at various institutions, directed French music musicals and German language plays, mentored juniors, and received awards for my thesis among the entire students of Ewha University. Furthermore, I received a scholarship and had an opportunity to learn from Fisk, an overseas organ company. In addition to this, I have done various activities, and I have learned and achieved many great things after entering Ewha.

Career aspirations and goals: I have a large ambition, and I aspire to do my best to achieve my goals. There are multiple goals that I have set for myself. My current goals are to become a music director in a church and a concert organist. I would love to work and collaborate with other musicians in ensembles or orchestras. It is my desire to make the organ instrument known to more people by working in various fields. I enjoy improvisation, and I want to learn more about organ repertoire and also compose organ pieces. Furthermore, I want to become music director for musicals, and I want to compose music for musicals and movies with organ.

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