The mission of the American Guild of Organists is to foster a thriving community of musicians who share their knowledge and inspire passion for the organ.
The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. The Guild serves approximately 14,700 members in approximately 300 chapters throughout the United States and abroad.
Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, the Guild seeks to set and maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music.
Under the leadership of the National Council, a network of volunteer committees and officials at the regional, district, and local levels directs the activities of the Guild. The AGO National Headquarters is in New York City where a full time staff supports and coordinates publication, administration, and development activities of the organization. For purposes of administration and representation, the Guild is divided into nine geographical regions, and each chapter is assigned to one of them.
The American Guild of Organists and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA) share a mutually beneficial association, a collaboration that has existed since 1975. For several decades this relationship has been strengthened by financial contributions from APOBA and its members in support of the AGO and its Pipe Organ Encounters (POE) program. The AGO has responded with generous provisions for bringing news from APOBA and its members to the organ public.
In 1942, Dr. Frank B. Jordan arrived in Des Moines to become the new dean of the College of Fine Arts at Drake University. It wasn’t too much later he helped organize the first chapter of the American Guild of Organists in Des Moines. An early focus was developing the skills of local church organists. Another focus was raising funds for student scholarships. Every few years, the chapter sponsored a guest recitalist who played a benefit concert and judged a competition of student performers from colleges and universities in Central Iowa. The local winner advanced to regional, and potentially, national competitions.
Our chapter planned and hosted the 1961 regional convention of the American Guild of Organists. Under the leadership of Russell Saunders, Drake University, and Bob Burns, First Methodist Church, the convention featured famous organ instructor Arthur Poister of Syracuse University and the music of J. S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein.
Another major project was the Pipe Organ Encounter in 1999. Dr. Carl Staplin and Dr. Naomi Rowley spearheaded a music camp at Drake University for thirty-four organ students ages 11-19. Seventeen instructors provided daily lessons in area churches leading up to a final concert featuring the student performers.
The Central Iowa Chapter of the AGO again hosted a regional convention in 2011. Des Pipes, Des Pedals, Des Moines was marketed to the local community as an organ festival, leading to four consecutive evenings of standing-room-only audiences. They heard a hymn festival led by Aaron David Miller, concerts by Jan Kraybill and Christopher Houlihan, and the Brahms Requiem performed by the Des Moines Choral Society. The planning committee was headed by Central College’s Mark Babcock and Dr. Davis Folkerts arranged a day trip to Pella which included a silent film accompanied by the Barton Theater Organ at the Pella Opera House.
Of course, in between the major events we continue to hold many, many monthly chapter meetings. Workshops, training, chapter recitals, masterclasses, materials for professionals and amateurs, fellowship – this is the heart and soul of the Central Iowa Chapter and the reason members faithfully participate in AGO year after year.
Dr. Miriam Zach
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