UA Professor Awarded Prestigious Organ Honor

From the April 2018 Desktop News | Dr. Faythe Freese, a professor of organ at The University of Alabama, was recently awarded the esteemed Oswald Gleason Ragatz Distinguished Alumni Award by the Indiana Organists United, a branch of the Indiana University Alumni Association.

The award, issued biennially, is given to outstanding alumni who have made significant impacts in the field of organ study. Since its establishment in 2006, only 14 alumni have been selected.

Freese graduated from Indiana University Bloomington’s Jacobs School of Music with her master’s degree in organ performance and her doctorate in organ and church music. But her journey to success began long before, as a young girl who wanted to try something new.

“I studied about seven or eight years of piano and became bored, so my mom signed me up to take organ lessons,” Freese said. “It turns out that there was a formally-trained organist who had graduated from Oberlin College—which has a nationally recognized organ program—who lived about a block away from our house. She taught and nurtured me and I never looked back.”

Since she discovered her passion for organ, Freese has established herself as a top-tier performer and teacher for aspiring organ students. A professor at UA’s School of Music since 2003, Freese has shown her students that the organ is more than just a place to exercise their fingers.

“It’s like having an orchestra at your fingertips,” Freese said. “There’s a power to it; they call it the king of instruments, and this instrument is not shy. It’s quite in your face, but it can whisper, too. I enjoy the dynamic range and the colors you can get, and I am passionate about the different styles of music in our repertoire.”

In the future, Freese would like to continue performing and playing on world famous instruments, like she did on her sabbatical in Europe, where she was allowed to play on some of the most treasured organs in history.

“I would go somewhere new for a week at a time—like Denmark, Spain, or Portugal—and I performed on several historical instruments, about 50 overall. This was neat because the instruments inform how you are going to play. The organs taught me, which I loved.”

As Freese travels the world and learns from great historic organs, she brings her experience and knowledge back to the university, where she continues to teach students about the vast and exciting world of the king of instruments.

For more information about the award, visit the Indiana Organists United website.