2014 National Competition in Organ Improvisation

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Chartered 1896 by the Board of Regents, University of the State of New York


475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115; phone 212-870-2310; www.agohq.org

The National Competition in Organ Improvisation seeks to further the art of improvisation by recognizing and rewarding superior performances in the field. A flourishing tradition of improvisation is fundamental to a truly vital musical culture.

Competition Rules


The competition is open to all organists regardless of age or citizenship. First-place winners of previous AGO Improvisation Competitions are not eligible. Each competitor will complete the official application form and submit it along with the $75 registration fee to AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation at the AGO Headquarters address listed above. The entry must be postmarked by September 15, 2013.

Please note: A competitor may be disqualified at any time for failure to abide by these rules or for actions deemed to be in conflict with the spirit of the competition. Such disqualification will be made by common agreement between the NCOI leadership and the Executive Director of the AGO, in consultation with the National Councillor for Competitions and New Music.


The preliminary round is by recording, evaluated by a panel of three judges. The recording must be made between October 20 and November 11, 2013, and monitored by an approved proctor such as an AGO officer, a teacher, or a recording engineer. The competitor is responsible for selecting the instrument and obtaining a proctor. The proctor will make four CD copies of the recording and submit them to AGO National Headquarters, postmarked not later than November 12, 2013. A field of no more than five semifinalists will be announced by February 1, 2014.

Performance Requirements

1. An improvisation on a given cantus firmus that includes a harmonization of the tune and an improvisation on the tune.

2. An improvisation on a given free theme.

Preparation time for this round: 30 minutes.

Maximum performance time: 15 minutes.

Proctor's Responsibilities

* Attend the entire recording session, with no other audience members permitted except a recording engineer.

* Make sure all recording equipment is working properly with a brief trial recording before giving the themes to the competitor.

* Receive the themes and proctor's form from the competition administrator and give them to the competitor 30 minutes before the recording session begins. The competitor may not play the organ or any other instrument after receiving the themes and before recording the improvisations.

* Ensure that the CD is high-quality, continuous, unedited, and free from background noise or other imperfections that would impair its effectiveness.

* Verify that all four CDs are properly labeled as instructed by the administrator and playable on standard playback equipment.

* Send the recordings, proctor's form, and themes to AGO Headquarters. The proctor's form will certify that the recording session was properly monitored and that the recording's quality and playability have been confirmed.


All competitors must avoid the competition site outside of the appointed orientation, practice, and performance times, except for official AGO convention events. Each competitor will practice alone. Except for an NCOI Committee-approved person who may demonstrate combinations of the competitor's choice and/or provide registration assistance on instruments with no pistons, no one may listen to or accompany the competitor during practice sessions. A panel of three judges, none of whom will have served as a judge for the Preliminary Round, will serve for both the Semifinal and Final Rounds. Judges will be screened from the competitors, and no applause will be allowed. …