Isabelle Demers has just announced that she has accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Organ at Baylor University, succeeding Professor Joyce Jones who has had a legendary tenure there, teaching many of today's finest musicians.
Isabelle is one of a growing group of brilliant young organists who are bringing the art of organ playing to new levels. They are feasting on the exciting rekindling of interest in the art of the symphonic organ, reminding us why that style of organ building that was so popular in the early twentieth century is vital and exciting today. These young artists are returning to the legendary old-world work ethics of intense pedagogy, tireless practicing and rehearsal, and unquestioned, flawless memorization, making it possible for them to explore the most complicated and sophisticated music written for the organ, playing it for us unfettered by insecurity. Anyone who attended Stephen Tharp's New York AGO "International Performed of the Year" recital in February at St. Mary the Virgin in Times Square knows what I mean. Gad zooks, what virtuosity.
I celebrate that so many of these stupendous artists have taken university teaching positions, ensuring that the next generation of young players will be dedicated, hard-working, expressive musicians. In a world where a parish church typically spends a million or more dollars on a new pipe organ, there can be no better hope for the future of our art.
We hear the news of Isabelle Demers' appointment in the months following the passing of Gerre Hancock and David Craighead, two of the great teachers of organ playing of the previous generation. Both of those legends contributed immeasurably to the shape of today's organ world, and I imagine that they both could only be delighted to know how their tradition is continuing.
We celebrate the early twentieth-century artistry of Lynwood Farnum - the great Canadian organist who had so much to do with the development of the symphonic pipe organ. How fun that two important teaching positions in Texas are occupied by young Canadian organists, Ken Cowan at Rice University, and now Isabelle Demers at Baylor.
My heartiest congratulations to Isabelle on her important appointment, to the faculty at Baylor who soon will have a great new colleague, and to those who will be privileged to study with her. But a word to those future students, you had better be ready to work!