ROCHESTER, NY The Eastman School of Music fared exceptionally well at the recent American Guild of Organists (AGO) national convention held earlier this month in Seattle. Doctoral candidate Ji-Yoen Choi, currently a student of Eastman Associate Professor of Organ David Higgs, was the first-prize winner in the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) an intensive, yearlong competition culminating in semi-final and final rounds at the convention.
As winner, Choi, 28, receives a cash prize of $2,000, a recording on the Naxos label (to be produced in August), and two years of management by Karen McFarlane Artists, the firm that manages a number of internationally known organists (including Higgs, David Craighead, and the late Michael Farris) from around the world. During that time, she will present 40-50 recitals across the United States.
"The NYACOP has long been one of the most important organ competitions in America, and carries with it a prize that opens many career doors for the winner. Im extremely thrilled for Ji-Yoen," said Higgs.
Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Choi came to America in 1994 after receiving her bachelors degree from Yonsei University. She received a masters degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1996 and began pursuing her doctorate in organ performance at Eastman that summer. She studied with Michael Farris (who, coincidentally, was a previous winner of the NYACOP competition) until his untimely death in March 1999. Since then, she has studied with both Katharine Pardee and Higgs. Now living in Rochester, she has been the organist at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Penfield since September 1998.
Two other students of Higgs were honored at the AGO convention as well: Sophomore Fred Teardo of Connecticut and masters student Tom Trenney of Ohio earned the chance to perform in the "Rising Stars" concert, as a result of winning one of the nine regional AGO competitions for younger players in the past year. They played "brilliantly," according to Higgs, and have both since received several requests to play professional recitals around the country. In addition, Eastman masters student Aaron Travers won the E.C. Schirmer Prize for best choral and organ composition, and the piece was performed at the conventions opening convocation.
The American Guild of Organists is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. The Guild serves approximately 20,000 members in 348 chapters throughout the United States, Europe, Korea, and Argentina. Its purpose is to promote the organ in its historic and evolving roles, and encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music.