AGO Names Prizewinners in National Organ Competitions

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is pleased to announce the results of its National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) and the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI). Competition prizewinners were recognized at the 52nd biennial AGO National Convention in Boston, Mass. The following competition prizes were awarded:


First Prize—Jonathan Rudy
The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $3,000 cash award and career development assistance provided by Karen McFarlane Artists; a CD recording by Pro Organo; and a performance at the 2016 AGO National Convention in Houston, TX.

Second Prize—HyeHyun Sung
$3,000 cash award provided by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

Third Prize—Kirk Rich
$2,000 cash award provided by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Audience Choice Prize—Jonathan Rudy
$1,000 cash award provided by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company


First Prize—Patrick Scott
$3,000 cash award provided by McNeil Robinson
Second Prize—Douglas Murray
$2,000 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.
Third Prize—Not Awarded Due to Competitor’s Withdrawal
$1,500 cash award provided by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra
Audience Choice Prize—Patrick Scott
$1,500 cash award provided by David and Robin Arcus


The National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance promotes the highest level of organ performance. The competition serves as a springboard for emerging young organists,
allowing them to continue to develop their performance ability by participating in the various demanding stages of this competition. Established in 1950 and held biennially, the competition is open to organists between the ages of 22 and 32. The 2013–2014 NYACOP was conducted in four rounds. Nineteen applicants were accepted as official competitors based upon their submitted recordings and applications outlining their recital experience and demonstrating their readiness for the rigorous performing demands of the first-prize winner. In the anonymous, recorded elimination round that followed, seven NYACOP competitors were selected to advance to the semifinal round, which was hosted by the Columbus (Ga.) Chapter and played on the Jordan Concert Organ at Columbus State University on May 22.

Three finalists were chosen to participate in the final round, held in conjunction with the AGO National Convention, on June 23, at The Memorial Church—Harvard University, in Cambridge,Mass.

The judges for the final round were Michael Barone, Diane Meredith Belcher, and Peter Sykes. Major support for the 2013–2014 NYACOP was provided by Karen McFarlane Artists,
John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, Kegg Pipe Organ Builders, the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company, the Nita Akin Competition Fund, the Columbus (Ga.) AGO Chapter, and the Columbus
State University Jordan Organ Endowment. Repertoire, officials rules, and the application form for the 2015–2016 NYACOP can be found on the AGO website, and will appear in The American Organist magazine.


The National Competition in Organ Improvisation advances the art of improvisation by recognizing and rewarding superior performers in the field. Improvisation is the pinnacle of
achievement for a musician who can combine the elements of performance and composition simultaneously in the creation of a new work of art. Since 1990, the AGO NCOI has motivated and
inspired hundreds of the most talented organists in America. Today, it is the preeminent competition in North America dedicated to preserving and advancing improvisation at the organ, and is open to all regardless of age or country of citizenship.

The 2013–2014 NCOI began with a preliminary recorded round in the fall of 2013; there were 17 entries. Five semifinalists were selected as official competitors in January 2014. Semifinal and final rounds were held at First Lutheran Church and St. Cecilia Church, respectively, in conjunction with the AGO National Convention in Boston. Judges for the final round were Edoardo Bellotti, Carson Cooman, and Christa Rakich. Major support for the 2013–2014 NCOI was provided by McNeil Robinson, Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra, and David and Robin Arcus.

A flourishing tradition of improvisation has always been fundamental to a truly vital musical culture. Although musical extemporization has enjoyed a rich heritage in Europe for many
centuries, the art form is in perilous risk of extinction in America except among a few organists and jazz musicians. As the premier competition for organ improvisation in America, the NCOI continues to set the standard for organists seeking to demonstrate their skill in extemporaneous performance, the highest and most challenging musical art form.

Biographies of the 2013–2014 competitors can be found in the September 2013 (NYACOP) and April 2014 (NCOI) issues of The American Organist magazine.