4 Steps to Becoming a Concert Organist

by   |  October 24, 2012

For students interested in pursuing careers as concert organists, Felipe Dominguez, principal organist at the First Presbyterian Church in Annandale, VA, shares his professional advice.

4 Steps to Becoming a Concert Organist

Students pursuing careers in organ performance will benefit from Felipe Dominguez’s professional advice.

Felipe Dominguez’s Top 4 Tips for Budding Organists

Most concert organists have a church position as their main source of income, and play concerts on the side. If you want a career as a concert organist, you will have to consider a full-time position as a church organist. Your position also gives you credibility and prestige. It is quite different to be introduced just as “John Smith, organist” than it is   to be introduced as “John Smith, organist at St. Mark’s church in Cleveland, OH”. Here are some suggestions for aspiring church organists:
1)       Feed your passion.   First and foremost, you have to love the instrument. Practicing will be part of your life and you have to have a systematic approach to constantly expand your repertoire and learn music quickly.
2)       Start working NOW.   Make sure you get some good experience while at school (either high-school or University). There are plenty of churches that may need a substitute organist for when the principal organist is on leave. Even if the pay is no good, get the experience. There are things that you will learn while playing at a church service that no one can teach you in a classroom.
3)       Learn how to play hymns.   Hymn playing is critical. You need to be able to play hymns at a very high level, with voice independence and energy. You may want to learn some tricks to vary different verses other than registration changes, however, that won’t matter if you cannot play a hymn convincingly with great independence of parts.
4)       Continue studying piano.   Do not quit piano! Much of the choir music we do has piano accompaniment and it is quite challenging at times. Do not stop playing your piano repertoire.


Give It Time

No matter how talented you are, developing the skills needed to sustain a career in organ performance takes years of persistent practice.   Keep your chin up through moments of frustration.   Keep your fingers playing and keep those eyes on your dream.   As with anything, never hesitate to ask for help along the way.   You never know but your lifelong mentors may simply be waiting for you to start asking the right questions.


More on: Careers, Musical Performance, Practicing
About the Author:

Having achieved so many of her own dreams, Mimi West has devoted her career to paying it forward to the rising generation of musicians. You can follow her on Twitter @mydreamteacher.
Publshed: October 24, 2012  | 
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