Pandemic Reflections (University of Montana)

By Nancy J. Cooper, DMA

A year-plus of distancing and the occasional Zoom lesson has left all of us at the University of Montana craving a return to “normalcy.” This fall, with just a few organ students but a lot of lonely community organists, I decided to do some town-and-gown events, that have been wonderfully successful: first, we embraced the “Year of the Young Organist” program through AGO and our local chapter, which last year had 8 members and now has 17. We had a socially-distanced October event that drew 20 (a few spouses and friends included) where older members played for the new ones. Meeting in person, and hearing music live, rather than pre-recorded for Sundays on Youtube, had members near tears. I have also opened our UM weekly studio classes to AGO members, at which all are invited to play — this has helped the young organists, small in number but mighty in spirit, feel part of a larger and supportive community. This past summer I began working on a program exclusively of women composers, to be played on March 8, 2022 (International Women’s Day); the wealth and breadth of repertoire out there, previously unknown to me, is staggering. (Social isolation really lent itself to a LOT of practicing!) Lastly, as the director of the AGO Task Force for Gender Equity, I have been promoting March 6, 2022 as WomenComposerSunday, founded last year by the [British] Society for Women Organists. All are invited to perform choral and organ music by women on March 6th, 2022, to highlight those performances in the media, and to post videos of their performances with the hashtag WomenComposerSunday. More information forthcoming!

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