That is the message I texted to my former student, Joey Fala, when he directed me to the New York City chapter American Guild of Organists website where I saw this:
Joey said that his local Eastern New York AGO chapter didn’t have enough applicants to hold a competition, but they were generous to give him the application fee and money for expenses to travel to New York City. Each applicant was given three hours to prepare three pieces and a hymn accompaniment on the day before the competition, plus thirty minutes on the actual day. The instrument was built by Rieger and you can read the organ specification by clicking here. What is so unusual is that the pedalboard goes down to low A (instead of the usual low C), which can easily throw you off!
As it turned out, a friend took Joey to breakfast and he was late getting to the church — giving him only 8 minutes to warmup. But he remembered my long-time admonition on the dangers of practicing right before a concert so didn’t have the time to worry too much about it. When he found out he was competing against Juilliard students, he thought that he didn’t have a chance and just decided to enjoy himself. He was the last person to play.
When the results were announced that an architecture student had won the competition, and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the judges asked Joey who his teacher was and who was the head of the organ department (Uh, no one!) since it’s not a school they were expecting!
In case you’re wondering, Joey played the prelude from Maurice Duruflé’s Veni Creator, the Prelude and Fugue in D major by Bach, and the Toccata in D minor by Max Reger plus he wrote his own introduction to the hymn, “Wondrous Love.” When the judges found out the hymn intro was his own composition, they all asked him for a copy! (Yes, it’s that good!)
Our amazing Joey — we are so proud of you!