News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 29, 2014

Art of open air

Churchgoer, artist revels in resonance of pipe organ

TERRE HAUTE — Jonathan Rudy, a 25-year-old organist who started taking lessons in the sixth grade, won the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance on June 23.

“It was a really surreal moment,” Rudy said on Sunday. “The feedback I was getting from folks that heard me and the other contestants thought it went extremely well.”

Rudy said he faced off against 19 competitors in the first round. After the judges reviewed their recordings of the selected pieces, only seven moved on to the semifinal round in Columbus, Georgia. The semifinal round concluded with three contestants making it to the final stage in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“They [judges] were blind to us, and we were blind to them,” he said. “We didn’t know what they were looking for, which is good because then we can play our interpretation of the piece, instead of playing something that they want to hear.”

After Rudy won the final competition, he received the Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize, career development assistance from Karen McFarlane Artists Inc., $3,000 and a CD recording on the Pro Organo label, which he said he will be recording in the fall and spring.

Rudy is from Batavia, Illinois, but he now lives in Bloomington. He said he has attended Terre Haute’s Central Presbyterian Church for just under two years. The support he received from his church helped him through the competition, he said.

“They’ve truly been a blessing to me,” Rudy said. “They’ve been absolutely wonderful in their encouragement. I’m very lucky to be at this congregation.”

The competition started in the 2013 spring. He constantly had to learn new music and “try to balance everything out in my life,” Rudy said.

“Stress was definitely the hardest element of the competition,” he said. “There was a lot of music to learn in a short period of time. I was competing against some of the most advanced peers in the country.”

Looking forward, Rudy, who is also an associate instructor of music theory and aural skills at Indiana University, said he wants to continue to hone his skills as an organist.

“First and foremost, I am going to be relaxing a little bit,” he said as he laughed. “I am going to start practicing recitals, and record that CD I won.”

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