FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Three organ students from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music proved their mettle at two recent national organ competitions, garnering some of the profession’s most coveted prizes.
Nara Lee, a doctoral organ performance major studying with Janette Fishell, chair of the Jacobs Organ Department, won second prize in the 2022 National Competition in Organ Improvisation at the American Guild of Organists’ biennial convention, becoming the first Asian prizewinner in the competition’s history.
Lee holds the associate instructorship in organ at the Jacobs School of Music and is assistant organist at Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis. He won third prize at the Asia Organ Competition in 2017 and second prize at the Strader Organ Competition in 2015 and has published several sacred music compositions.
“Nara’s win is stupendous because he did so much of the work by himself, as we had a year without a faculty member with a specialty in improvisation,” said Fishell “While I helped Nara with the one required repertoire element, the Bach Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541, he was pretty much on his own with all the improvisations. It was clear during the final competition that he shines as an improviser largely because of his innate musicality and the depth of expression he brings to all his performances. I know that he looks forward to working further on his extemporaneous performance with our incoming faculty member, Jeffrey Smith.”
Jihye Choi, married to Lee, placed in the top five at the American Guild of Organists’ 2022 National Young Artist Competition in Organ Performance at the same convention, the only female finalist in a highly competitive field.
A native of South Korea, Choi completed her coursework for a D.Mus. at the Jacobs School as a student of Fishell and is one of two organ scholars at Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, this year. She is a past prizewinner in the Ft. Wayne (Indiana) National Playing Competition, Sursa Organ Competition and Poister Competition.
“From the moment I arrived in the convention hotel, people came up to me to compliment Jihye on her stylistic performance in the semifinal round,” said Fishell. “This competition’s committee set a very demanding repertoire selection for all of its stages, and I believe that the process of helping her prepare for it helped me grow as a teacher almost as much as it helped Jihye grow as a performer!”
Completing the power trio, Fishell student Nicholas Stigall won second prize in the 2022 Arthur Poister National Organ Playing Competition.
This is the second major competition prize for senior Stigall, having won first place in the 2019 American Guild of Organists Regional Competition for Young Organists. He is a dedicated student of sacred music and was the first organ scholar at this summer’s Chautauqua Institution.
“Nicholas is an incredibly gifted young man with an outstanding facility and voracious appetite for learning challenging repertoire and playing it with technical brilliance and musical sensitivity,” said Fishell. “He came to Jacobs with a great foundation, and he has consistently built on that.
“The Jacobs Organ Department could not be prouder of these students than we are now. They are to be congratulated for the immense discipline required to endure these high-stakes events.”
For 80 years, Jacobs School of Music Organ Department graduates have been consistently recognized as some of the world’s most celebrated performers, teachers, scholars and church musicians.
The department is committed to creating an environment in which each student is encouraged to explore new territory while also pursuing special areas of interest with faculty who bring world-renowned expertise in the fields of performance, scholarship, teaching and sacred music.