Welcome to Shenandoah Conservatory’s Church Music Institute, held for two weeks each summer as part of a three-year cycle of an intensive study of the skills and knowledge required of a musician working in the church. Plan now to join us for two memorable and inspirational weeks in the Shenandoah Valley!
Week 1: June 17–22
Week 2: June 24–29
J. Thomas Mitts
Praise God with the Sound of the Organ
This year’s Institute provides significant hands-on experience (with feet as well) as we “Praise God with the Sound of the Organ”. Organists have daily coachings in service playing and accompaniment with helpful feedback in Master Classes and rehearsals. Afternoon classes will explore rehearsal techniques and repertoire for organ, choirs, and instruments. The first week concludes with a festival Evensong led by the participants. During the second week they will present a series of Hymn Festivals utilizing their new approaches to creative hymn playing and improvisation.
Conductors less familiar with the organ have classes that introduce the organ and examine how it works, surveying basic playing technique and registration guidelines – ultimately discovering what they can and cannot expect from the instrument and its players.
Those who like to perform are invited to participate in the presentation of François Couperin’s “Convents” Mass and Marcel Dupré’s Vespers, Op. 18, which will be performed in the context of services where organ versets alternate with chants sung by the choir. Contact the Institute Director, Dr. J. Thomas Mitts, for more information.
There is something for everyone in this exciting two-week adventure. Regardless of your level of performance or experience, you will find interesting and informative sessions that work with you where you are and will continue to inspire you as you return to your home church.
Knowing the Instrument
Organ Building and Design
Playing the Service
Conducting the Choir
Conducting from the Console
Planning the Service
Constructing Liturgies and Services
Organ Vespers for the Day of Pentecost
7:00 Sunday evening June 17 • Braddock Street United Methodist Church
presented by J. Thomas Mitts
5:30 Friday afternoon June 22 • Grace Lutheran Church
presented by Bruce Neswick
French Organ Mass & Motets
7:00 Sunday evening June 24 • Goodson Chapel of Shenandoah University
François Couperin: Mass for the Convents
Henry Du Mont, Jean-Baptiste Lully: Petit Motets
Vespers in Honor of Our Lady
5:30 Wednesday afternoon June 27 • Braddock Street United Methodist Church
5:30 Friday afternoon June 29 • Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC
Marcel Dupré: Vêpres des Fêtes du Commun de la Sainte-Vierge, Op. 18
Jesus, the Promised Messiah
7:00 Monday evening June 25 • Grace Lutheran Church
Jesus, the Suffering Servant
7:00 Tuesday evening June 26 • Christ Episcopal Church
Jesus, the Lord of Life
7:00 Thursday evening June 28 • First Baptist Church
** If you are interested in playing movements of the Couperin Mass or Dupré Vespers, please contact the director of CMI , Dr. J. Thomas Mitts: email, firstname.lastname@example.org.; phone, 202-425-4586.
Bruce Neswick serves as the Director of Music at Trinity Cathedral and Instructor of Organ at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Previous positions include Associate Professor of Organ at Indiana University and Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York City, where he conducted the Choir of Girls, Boys and Adults and had oversight of the musical life of that historic church. Active in the field of church music, Mr. Neswick holds Fellowship degrees from the American Guild of Organists and the Royal School of Church Music. He has conducted dozens of summer camps and festivals for boy and girl choristers and has been commissioned to compose for performers and churches throughout North America. Mr. Neswick’s skill at improvisation garnered him three first prizes from the 1989 San Anselmo Organ Festival; the 1990 American Guild of Organists’ national convention in Boston; and the 1992 Rochette Concours at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland. He is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and Yale University, and his organ teachers have included David Dahl, Margaret Irwin-Brandon, Gerre Hancock, Robert Baker and Lionel Rogg. As a recitalist, Mr. Neswick has performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe and has been a frequent performer at national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists. In 1994, he played the opening convocation for the national AGO convention held in Dallas, Texas, and he was a featured artist at national AGO conventions in Seattle (2000), Washington, DC (2010) and Boston (2014). He is represented by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists. American Guild of Organists.
Enthusiastic reviews applaud the “virtuoso performance by organist J. Thomas Mitts” – a “sensitive soloist who precisely spelled out the virtuoso passages” in his “spell-binding” appearances in festivals and concert series in the United States, Europe, and Russia. He is known for his insightful approach to early music as well as his interpretive skills and declamatory deliverance of the major Romantic repertoire.
Dr. Mitts is Associate Professor of Organ and Director of Church Music at Shenandoah Conservatory. In addition to teaching organ performance and related keyboard skills, he oversees the undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in Church Music. Each summer he plans and leads the Church Music Institute, a two-week intensive study of the skills and knowledge required of a musician working in the church.
As the Artistic Director of Shenandoah’s Bach-Handel Festival of Baroque Music, Dr. Mitts works with students from across the Conservatory in the preparation and performance of early music. He also serves as organist for the annual Service of Lessons & Carols, a highly anticipated event that he designs and coordinates. On occasion Dr. Mitts leads graduate seminars in Music History and Music Theory, and oversees document preparation for doctoral Lecture Recitals.
Since 1993 Dr. Mitts has also served as Organist and Choirmaster at Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington, DC, a church whose worship life is propelled by dynamic music and liturgy. In this capacity he has composed Mass settings, graduals, psalms and other liturgical elements as well as anthems and festival settings for voices and instrumental ensembles. He has also prepared scholarly performing editions of early music for use in liturgical celebrations and concerts.
Prior to joining the faculty at Shenandoah, Dr. Mitts was associated with Adas Israel Congregation, also in DC, as organist, pianist, and choral conductor. There he produced arrangements of music from the Holocaust and a performing edition of music for the Sabbath by Salamone Rossi, which he later conducted for the Jewish Service of the national convention of the American Guild of Organists in 2010. He has held academic appointments at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the University of New Orleans, and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Undergraduate or graduate credit is available for participating in the Institute, which can be applied to academic or continuing education programs. A Certificate in Church Music may be earned with the successful completion of the three-summer cycle of courses. See the Registration & Fees page for details.
For more information
Contact the Director of the Church Music Institute, Dr. J. Thomas Mitts, at email@example.com, or call (202) 425-4586.