Sophomore emerges victorious from competitive organ competition

By JP Graham | Reporter

The final round of the Semper Pro Musica Organ Competition took place Tuesday night in the Jones Concert Hall, where a trip to New York City was on the line.

With roughly 30 minutes to perform, each of the finalists played their selected pieces in hopes of convincing judge Paul Jacobs, the only organist to ever have won a Grammy and Chair of Julliard’s Organ Department, to select them as the winner. At the end of the night, Houston sophomore Jared Cook emerged victorious.

Cook competed against New York graduate student Jillian Gardner and Shenzhen, China graduate student Yinying Luo. This was Gardner’s first year as an Advanced Performer’s Certificate student at Baylor University, which is intended for students who demonstrate potential to establish a career in that field. Luo is currently seeking a master’s degree in church music at Baylor.

Cook said he intended to show off the versatility of the organ in selecting the pieces used in his winning performance.

“I wanted to show the versatility of the instrument,” Cook said. “The organ has an unlimited amount of tone colors and sound combinations, and I tried to show as many of them as I could.”

Associate Professor of Organ Dr. Isabelle Demers said her students impress her more each year, adding that the dedication and talent of this year’s group in particular is especially impressive.

“The organ studio is doing very well this year, and this may be the most talented group of organ students that Baylor has ever had,” Demers said. “The three finalists have worked very hard since they were chosen in late November, spending many hours in the concert hall to hone their skills.”

The Semper Pro Musica Competition was founded by Dean of Baylor School of Music Gary Mortenson in 2015 in hopes of motivating students to strive for musical excellence. The winning students travel to New York to perform in Carnegie Hall in May, and the organ was added to the solo competition categories just this year.

Of the six solo competition winners and the three chamber category competition winners that will travel to New York City, Cook is the only winner that will not perform at Carnegie Hall because of the lack of organ in the building. Instead, Cook will perform at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Additionally, during this May’s performance in Manhattan, Cook will perform alongside his professor, Dr. Demers.

Cook said he thinks his success derives from countless hours of rehearsing, in addition to Dr. Demers’s emphasis on preparation being the key to success.

“As musicians, every performance is a competition with ourselves,” Cook said. “Dr. Demers has told me multiple times that preparation is the key to performance success, and I had to remind myself multiple times that I know my pieces, and that I can play a successful performance.”

Dr. Demers said Cook’s performance was not only impressive because of his talent, but also because of his age; he took home the glory as an undergraduate sophomore.

“Jared showed great musicality, poise and control throughout his program,” Demers said. “He also played some of his program from memory, which is quite difficult to do on the organ. It was quite an impressive feat for a sophomore and bodes very well for his future.”

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