J: Your busy career spans a variety of different yet intertwined positions from university professor to church musician and concert organist to recording artist. Let’s first focus on your faculty position at The American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Please describe for us your role in what is described as “a revolutionary (organ) program without parallel”.
Dr. Spritzer: What an incredible compliment to our program! That is really wonderful, thank you! I am one of three teaching faculty here out of nine staff in the organ department/AOI. It was very exciting for me to be the successful applicant for this position a few years ago, because as we understand it, this was the first new tenure-track position in our field to have been created in quite a few years. That directly reflects the significant growth of the program here over the last decade, under the leadership of Dr. John Schwandt. It was a tremendous honor to be considered and to then be the successful applicant for the position. It was also a dream come true to find a full-time professorship in a thriving program with so many colleagues.
I concentrate on studio teaching (along with the other two faculty) but I also teach a three-semester graduate class in Organ Literature and History, a one-semester undergraduate Organ Literature and History class, a Hymnody class, and will be jointly designed and implementing an Organ Pedagogy class in the coming year or so. It’s a unique program for a number of reasons, one in particular being that we are the only university, accredited or otherwise, that presently offers degrees in Organ Technology. So in addition to a full slate of classical performance training, improvisation, church and sacred music, theatre organ (that is also in the process of becoming acknowledged as a formal emphasis here), and academic study of the instrument, our students get to work hands-on throughout their program of study by participating actively with organ renovation, building, tuning, voicing, and repair.
I love being part of a large department like this, which is something I was also very fortunate to experience in all my church positions where we likewise always had multiple organists and musicians and directors. I have tremendous departmental support from my colleagues here for my teaching as well as my performing and recording, and I hope to do the same for them! (To learn more of the American Organ Institute click here.)
J: Not only do you have a role in shaping future organists through your university teaching, you are also the Artist-in-Residence for the Cathedral Arts series at the Cathedral Church of St. Matthew in Dallas, Texas and as such have a role for generating new audiences. What are your thoughts on not only generating but maintaining audience interest in live performance?
Dr. Spritzer: My ties and association with St. Matthews Cathedral arevery precious to me. Cathedral Arts there incorporates a number of disciplines in the arts, which is always wonderful for reaching out to various parts of any given community. I give a lot of thought and talk to our students a great deal about the context, or perhaps, the intended audience, of any given “performance” situation. The diversity of the organ (especially when we include historic instruments) is stunning, and each hall, room, and instrument are unique. I love looking for programs that I hope suit each venue in particular. We can’t always put ourselves in the minds our supporters and listeners, but we can certainly listen to them when they communicate with us, and strive for ways to merge our own personal visions and aesthetics and dreams and ideals with what we are hearing that our congregations or audiences really respond to and recall with happiness or strong emotion.
The organ is so, so ancient, I am always in awe of the true extent of the historic body of repertoire from which we can draw for teaching, performing, and liturgical use. There is just so much! I work very hard personally to find a balance between canon rep that is beloved, and also a large percentage of [generally] Romantic or Modern music that has been overlooked by previous performers because of obscurity or loss. That seems to create a lot of memorable programs, based on the lovely letters and comments I have received over the years, and I’m very grateful that some of the programs have been so successful as well as the fact that my musical colleagues and listeners have taken the time to communicate so positively and eloquently with me about it.
I also try to simply perform as often as I possibly can, wherever I can, whenever I can, and I almost always try to speak with the audience before, during, or after the program, whenever that’s possible. It’s one of my favorite aspects of a live performance, and since we’re so often hidden, I think it helps make it more personal and relational. When people take the time to attend a performance, that says so much, and I want to honor that.
Excerpted from the Feature Article of the September 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter. Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC. Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.