Organ Department

Remembering Oswald Ragatz

Oswald Ragatz

Professor Oswald Ragatz taught organ at IU for over forty years and helped develop the organ department into one of the nation's finest.

The Organ Department of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music honors the legacy of Professor Emeritus Dr. Oswald Gleason Ragatz, who led the Jacobs School organ department for over 40 years and died earlier this year. Prominent Chicago area keyboardist David Schrader (MM ’76, DM ’87), a former student of Dr. Ragatz, said, “I earned most of a master's degree and all of a doctorate under the conscientious tutelage of Dr. Oswald G. Ragatz. I…immediately enjoyed his down-to-earth rationales for approaching the organ. His thorough syllabus has taught many fine organists--Ozzie enjoyed teaching. If I was a bit of a black sheep in IU’s department, he never let me know it and befriended me during a difficult period in my life. I shall always be grateful to him for his humor, grace, and solicitude. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!”
Oswald Ragatz, Professor Emeritus of Music, was born October 30, 1917, the son of Bertha (Gleason) and Benjamin Ragatz.  He grew up in Sterling, Colorado, where he graduated as valedictorian from high school in 1935.  He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Denver University, the Master of Arts from the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.), and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California. Additional graduate study was done in New York City at the Julliard School of Music and the Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music. While in Denver, he played oboe in the Denver Civic Symphony and was organist at Broadway Baptist Church. 

Dr. Ragatz came to Indiana University in 1942 as instructor of Organ and Theory.  Over the ensuing years, the Organ Department, with a faculty of four, grew to include as many as fifty-five organ majors, both undergraduate and graduate.  When he retired after forty-one years as Chairman of the Organ Department at Indiana University, over seventy of his graduates held teaching posts in institutions of higher learning.  Many former students also hold important positions in churches in the United States and abroad.  He also had brief teaching posts at Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pa., and at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. 

As a concert artist he was heard in nearly every state in the Union as well as in Europe and the Far East. In addition to teaching and concertizing, Dr. Ragatz held posts as organist-choirmaster in Rochester and Scarsdale, New York, and in Indiana, including ten years at First Methodist Church and twenty-five years at First Presbyterian Church, both in Bloomington. He was consultant for new organs in numerous churches throughout the Midwest.  He wrote Organ Technique: A Basic Course of Study, a widely used text/anthology published by the Indiana University Press and republished by T.I.S. Music publishers.

After his retirement in 1983, Dr. Ragatz continued his interest in musical pursuits, and he wrote two mystery novels, published by Authorhouse.   He was active in the First Christian Church in Bloomington and served on the board of directors at the Center for University Ministries for a number of years.  He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Louise (Christena), by a daughter, Kathryn Anne, and grandsons, Michael and Brooke.   His living descendents include his daughter Elizabeth (Beth/Christa) Christena Ragatz (and husband, Jack Van Der Wege) of Burnsville, MN, Gary Allen Ragatz (and wife, Paula) of Danville, IN, Gail Annette Ragatz (and partner, Mary Duncan), of McConnelsville, OH, Gina Alice Dubyak (and husband, Bruce), of Stuart, FL, Steven Andrew Ragatz (and wife, Lisa), of Bloomington, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Oswald and Mary Ragatz Organ Scholarship Fund, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN  47403, or to PlanUSA.