This fall, alumni organists from across the region and around the world gathered together to perform and reconnect.
The event on September 18 was the brainchild of Jonathan Moyer (MM ’00, GPD ’02, DMA ’10, Organ), current DMA student Felix Hell (AD ’07, MM ’08, Organ) and Michael Britt (BM ’84, Organ). The three organized a recital on the Holtkamp organ in Leith Symington Griswold Hall, followed by a dinner and recognitions at The Engineers Club at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion. Dr. Moyer explains: “We wanted to celebrate the legacy of the organ at Peabody, but also the legacy of Donald Sutherland,” the longtime faculty organist whose fame extends well beyond Peabody.
“We have a lot of great organists from our studio,” Dr. Moyer continues. Many, including Dr. Moyer, were piano students before meeting Dr. Sutherland, whose influence and enthusiasm convinced them to switch to multiple keyboards, pedals, stops — and the small but tightknit community of an instrument that has been a mainstay of Western music since the Middle Ages.
Peabody organ alumni have found success across the globe and close to campus in Baltimore, many of them as church music directors, a traditional role that requires more than excellent performance. Mr. Britt, who is in his fourth year as minister of music at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, notes: “You have to be able to lead the choir from the organ, you have to be able to improvise, and in many instances arrange and compose the music.”
Mr. Britt previously was director of music at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church in Bel Air, Maryland. Before that, he served for 26 years as minister of music at Baltimore’s Shrine of the Little Flower. At Brown Memorial, he succeeded John Walker, who also is a longtime member of the organ faculty at Peabody and is president of the American Guild of Organists.
Dr. Moyer is now assistant professor of organ at Oberlin Conservatory as well as music director at the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland.
Mr. Hell, described as “undoubtedly one of the major talents of the century” when he was just 13, today tours globally as a solo organist. He also is organ artist associate at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan and holds two positions in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: distinguished organist-in-residence at the Lutheran Theological Seminary and adjunct professor of organ at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music.
The strong ties of Peabody organ graduates and the opportunity to celebrate each other’s individual and collective success drew a significant number of them back to campus for this special reunion and concert.
— Michael Blumfield