OTTUMWA, IA – First Presbyterian Church, 228 W. Fourth Street in Ottumwa, announces the 2024 National Undergraduate Organ Competition weekend of events.

Three competitors, Ted Babbitt, sophomore at Mercer University (Macon, GA) and student of Dr. Jack Mitchener; Benjamin Foster, junior at Martin Luther College (New Ulm, MN) and student of Craig Hirschmann, and Henry Rye, sophomore at St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN) and student of James Bobb, have been invited to compete for the top prize of $3,500 on Sunday, April 7 at 1:30 pm. Judges including former competition coordinator Dr. Cindy Lindeen-Martin (Denver, CO), Dr. Brett Wolgast (Cedar Rapids, IA), and Dr. Michael Elsbernd (Des Moines, IA) will rate the competitors as they play works by J.S. Bach, hymns, and a piece of their choosing. The audience will also take part in the judging, resulting in a special $500 audience prize to a player voted best performer.

The weekend will begin with a free organ recital at the church by Dr. Cindy Lindeen-Martin on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 pm. Dr. Lindeen-Martin, former First Presbyterian director of music and competition coordinator, is currently director of music and organist at Church of the Ascension in Denver, Colorado where she leads a thriving music ministry. Lindeen-Martin is in demand as performer, instructor, lecturer, and adjudicator. She has concertized in Europe and Mexico and in the east and midwest United States. As a resident of Colorado, she is a frequent performer there, as a soloist or in collaboration with others, including The Denver Bach Society, Denver’s Stratus Chamber Orchestra, the Denver Brass, Stellar Brass (Air Force Academy), and the respected Denver-based choir, Kantorei.

Events on Saturday, April 6, will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 216 N. Court Street in Ottumwa. The day will begin with an introduction to the pipe organ for students in grades 3 and up at 10:00 am. Kids in grades 3 and up are invited to explore the King of Instruments through hands-on activities including playing a real pipe organ. A free pizza lunch will follow the workshop. Interested participants in this free event should register by email at [email protected]. In the afternoon, Dr. Cindy Lindeen-Martin will lead a free workshop at 1:00 pm for organists entitled, “A Spring in Your Step: freshening up music for worship.” Organists are invited to bring a selection of music (hymn, prelude, postlude, etc.) to play and receive encouraging feedback.

The National Undergraduate Organ Competition was first held in 1973 to “stimulate undergraduate students in their studies as well as provide the community and surrounding area with an opportunity to enjoy good organ music.” Since then, organists from across the nation have served as recitalists and judges for the competition.

Competition winners have gone on to hold various positions in churches and institutions of higher education. The competition is made possible by a generous gift from the Mort and Virginia Schmucker Charitable Trust. The Schmuckers were ardent music supporters and longtime members of First Presbyterian Church of Ottumwa.

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