$2.5 Million Gift Enables AGO to Enrich Lives Through Organ Music

Largest Bequest in the History of the AGO Establishes Endowments for College Scholarship Program, Organ Composition Competition, and Organ Fund to Maintain Tracker Pipe Organ

New York City – The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is spearheading three major initiatives that have been made possible by the largest bequest in Guild history. Totaling more than $2.5 million in cash and assets including a tracker pipe organ, the bequest from the estate of Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee was first announced at the 2010 AGO National Convention in Washington, D.C.

With the gradual distribution of the assets over the last three and a half years, the Guild has worked diligently and faithfully to honor the donors’ intentions by establishing (1) an endowment to provide college scholarships to dedicated organ students with financial needs, (2) an endowment to provide for the relocation and ongoing maintenance of the donors’ tracker organ, and (3) an endowment to support an annual organ composition competition for that instrument. Two of these endowments are now fully funded, with the third nearing completion.

“This extraordinary bequest helps us accomplish our mission—to enrich lives through organ and choral music—by providing the resources to implement two new programs and establish a lasting relationship with a new academic partner,” said AGO President Eileen Guenther.“ The AGO continues to be much more than the world’s largest membership association for organists. At the national level and through our international network of more than 300 chapters, we conduct more educational and outreach programs supporting organ and choral music than any other professional organization.”

The Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Scholarship will be available to six students (four undergraduate, and two graduate) beginning with the 2014–2015 academic year. Four undergraduate scholarships in the amount $7,500 each will be offered: one each to an incoming college freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Each scholarship will be renewable through completion of the student’s undergraduate years of study.  Two graduate scholarships in the amount of $15,000 each will be offered and will be renewable for a total of two years of graduate study. Eligibility requirements and application details are available online at Agohq.org. The application deadline is March 1, 2014.

The Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Pipe Organ Endowment was established to support the ongoing maintenance of the Pogorzelski and Yankee Memorial Organ. The 2-manual and pedal, 24-stop, 21-rank tracker organ, built by R.J. Brunner & Company in 1991 for Pogorzelski and Yankee’s private residence in Bucks County, Pa., was inspired by the early Pennsylvania German organs of David Tannenberg (1728–1804). The casework is gilded in 22-karat gold leaf. It will be moved and installed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2014 where it will be used for teaching and performance. The AGO’s lease of the organ to IUP will be renewable annually.

“The Guild selected IUP because of its thoroughly documented and passionate desire to have this instrument on campus and for its commitment to use the organ regularly for teaching and performance purposes exactly as Messrs. Pogorzelski and Yankee desired,” declared AGO Executive Director James Thomashower. The proposal, he said, “made it abundantly clear to us that IUP’s organ students, faculty, and administration would treasure the opportunity to have this elegant organ at the school and that it would be of immediate and lasting benefit not only to the academic community, but to the larger community around Indiana, Pa.”

The organ will be installed in the IUP Music Department’s Large Instrumental Rehearsal Hall, a room with the size and acoustical properties to provide an ideal setting for teaching and performance on the organ, according to Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts at IUP. “We are thrilled with the great honor that the American Guild of Organists has bestowed upon the department and IUP, and I can guarantee you that its honor and trust will be fully matched by the care and the respect with which this marvelous instrument will be treated,” Hood said.

Christine Clewell, IUP’s assistant professor of organ added, “IUP will embrace a policy of hospitality with the instrument, using it as a tool for building community relations, where we will continue to encourage the study of organ to vanquish the ever-present problem of the ‘vanishing organist’,” addressing the shortage of organists in the rural, western Pennsylvania region and elsewhere throughout the U.S. She expects the new organ to result in more frequent, higher quality organ performances, which will increase interest in organ study. “The new acquisition will materially raise the profile and expand the reputation of the IUP organ program and will serve as a promotional vehicle for organ study not only for prospective students, but also for those presently enrolled.”

The Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Annual Competition, a composition competition to encourage the creation of new music specifically for the R.J. Brunner organ, is being established by the AGO. Each year, the winning composition will be given its world premier performance in a gala recital at IUP by an internationally recognized organist. The AGO National Council has approved a preliminary statement of the competition rules as drafted by the AGO New Music Committee. The rules will be finalized and published later this year. The winning piece is expected to be performed at IUP in 2015. Complete details including the application process for composers will be posted online at amguildorg.wpengine.com.

Speaking on behalf of Messrs. Pogorzelski and Yankee at the 2010 AGO National Convention in Washington, D.C., Dale J. Marsico noted, “According to my uncles, the heart is reached easier through the use of organ music than any other musical form. Their music collection, music room, pipe organ, and Ron’s playing ability were testimony to their love of the instrument. This gift is a testament to their hopes that future generations might come to enjoy—to love and appreciate organ music as they did. They felt that their bequest to American Guild of Organists offered the best opportunity for that possibility.”

The AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 18,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist Magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 each month.