Landmark Organ Sound, Performance, and Luxury
by Jim Bybee
On March 13, 2010, Roland held its second annual Atelier Organ Fest “Finals” in Los Angeles. Top organists of all ages and experience levels participated, and winners were crowned in five different divisions: Professional, Advanced Hobbyist, Hobbyist, Youth 1, and Youth 2.
The division finalists made their way to the Organ Fest finals by competing with organists from around the country. Regional competitions sponsored by Roland Atelier dealers determined a number of local winners, who then hopped on jets to participate in semi-final events held in Las Vegas and Orlando. The finalists at these competitions then earned berths at the national finals.
At the concluding event, a trio of renowned organists judged the finalists’ performances: virtuoso Hector Olivera, concert artist Rosemary Bailey, and internationally acclaimed artist Tony Fenelon. All finalists performed before a live audience on Roland’s flagship Atelier AT-900, and the organists’ diverse musical selections showcased the incredible versatility of this powerful instrument.
Don Reed from Springfield, Massachusetts, took top honors in the Hobbyist Division with his performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” while Richard Guild from Syracuse, New York, claimed the Advanced Hobbyist prize with his rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Brent Evangelista from Orange, California, took the Youth 1 Division crown with the classical piece “Solfeggietto,” and Riley Dunn from Kansas City, Missouri, claimed Youth 2 Division honors with a medley from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Finally, Jason Comet from Watertown, New York, topped the Professional Division with a stirring performance of “The Magnificent Seven.”
The mission of the Roland Atelier Organ Fest is to promote the hobby of organ playing and educate participants in utilizing the features of their Roland Atelier, and all were inspired by the versatility and quality of the instrument. “I really love jazz, so I thought I would give it a shot to see if I was up to it, and the Atelier was certainly up to it,” says Advanced Hobbyist champion Richard Guild. “The way it sounds, all the sounds that are in it, its playability…it’s just an awesome instrument. The more you play it, the more it inspires you.”
In working towards the goal of performing in the Organ Fest, teachers became involved coaching their students on repertoire and working together to create arrangements that highlighted the wonderful sounds and styles of the Music Atelier. “I started with the piano, and then started to learn the organ once I was able to reach the pedals,” says young Brent Evangelista, Youth 1 Division winner. “The song I chose, well my teacher recommended it to me, because I was thinking of learning a nice piano piece, and it turned out being an organ piece later.”
Youth 2 Division winner Riley Dunn started playing the organ less than two years ago, switching from the piano at his teacher’s suggestion that he should participate in the Organ Fest. His success and the inspirational versatility of the Atelier spurred him to take his organ playing farther. “I recently started lessons with a new organ instructor,” Riley says. “He’s carried me so far in a short amount of time, teaching me the musicality behind what the Atelier can produce. [The progress I’ve made] in such a short amount of time is just incredible.”
Professional Division winner Jason Comet works for an organ dealership, and he’s been playing the instrument for over 20 years. Asked about his biggest thrill at the Organ Fest, he replied, “Definitely to meet all these magnificent musicians here. Hector, Tony, Rosemary…it’s absolutely incredible to meet these people face to face.”
The Organ Fest finalists greatly enjoyed the opportunity to travel to different cities around the country for the various levels of competition, and were impressed with how smoothly all the events went. “I think the whole thing was so well organized,” said Hobbyist winner Don Reed. “The organization, the transportation, all that was really professionally done. You’ve got the best here.”
Most of all, the winners deservedly took great pride and satisfaction in being chosen as the top organists in a nationwide competition. Perhaps Don Reed put it best; when asked about what part of the Organ Fest he liked the most, he enthusiastically replied, “Winning!” That about says it all.