By Rachel Leland
Several nationally recognized organists came to participate in the 21st annual Midwinter Organ Conference, which began Sunday.
Jason Roberts, associate director of music and organist at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City, will give a performance to accompany Buster Keaton’s silent film “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” in Jones Concert Hall.
Scott Dettra, director of music and organist at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, will host the conference’s closing recital. The last meeting will also be in Jones Concert Hall.
Titled “The American Organist,” the conference is housed in various concert and recital halls on campus and features organists from Baylor and other universities and states.
The conference began Sunday afternoon when Korean graduate student Chohee Kim performed a recital at Jones Concert Hall.
“I was a little bit nervous because it’s not my kind of stuff,” Kim said. “There are professional organists but I think it’s a good experience because there is more pressure than other performances at church or school.”
Assistant professor of organ in the school of music, Dr. Isabelle Demers, gave a performance Monday morning in Roxy Grove. She included composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Sergei Rachmaninoff in his arrangement. Demers is a Juilliard graduate.
Demers has organized the conference for the three years since coming to Baylor.
“The planning is always somewhat stressful because we need to take care of so many details, from organ maintenance to catering,” Demers said. “I’m always happy when we welcome the first guests on campus, and help them discover our beautiful instruments and facilities.”
Demers said she enjoys meeting and performing for guests. Some audience members Monday evening have attended since the first conference was held 20 years ago.
“Students, organists, or simply organ aficionados – I believe we all enjoy the concerts tremendously,” Demers said. “What’s not to love about great organists performing great music?”
Kennesaw, Ga., graduate student Kellie Richardson, who studies under Demers, said she hopes the conference and her studies will land her a position as an organist at a church.
“My favorite thing about the conference is meeting and interacting with some big-name people in the organ world,” Richardson said. “Not only are their workshops, master classes and concerts informative and enjoyable, but the conference also gives us the opportunity to get to know them personally. We are able to ask them questions and make connections that will help us in our career paths.”
Richardson said she is excited for the workshops that relate to church music.
“This conference is excellent preparation for that as sessions are primarily focused on organ,” Richardson said. “But also discuss other areas of church music, such as Dr. Randall Bradley’s presentation on ‘Music as Ministry’ and Dr. Lynne Gackle’s workshop on ‘Understanding the female adolescent voice.’”