ISM alums take first, second, and third prizes in national organ improvisation competition

July 1, 2024

Three ISM alumni won first, second, and third prizes in the biennial National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI) announced on July 1 at the 2024 American Guild of Organists’ (AGO) Convention in San Francisco.

Congratulations to Jerrick Cavagnaro M.M. ’20 who received first prize, Ethan Haman M.M. ‘21 who received second prize and the audience award, and Nicholas Quardokus M.M. ’18 who won the third prize. All three winners were students of Jeffrey Brillhart, award-winning organist and ISM lecturer in organ improvisation.

The award recognizes “superior performance” in the field of organ improvization, which is “fundamental to a truly vital musical culture.” Read more about the award on the NCOI website.

Cavagnaro is the associate director of music at Trinity Church, Boston. At Yale he studied organ under Jon Laukvik and Thomas Murray. He completed his undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College where he earned bachelor’s degrees in sacred music and organ performance, studying under Alan Morrison. Cavagnaro has served as director of music at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and organ scholar at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in NJ, and as organ scholar at Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in New Haven, CT. He most recently served as the assistant director of music and organist at Christ Episcopal Church, Charlotte, NC. In 2022, he received the second prize in the National Competition in Organ Accompaniment, third prize in the Quebec Organ Competition, and was a semifinalist in the 2022 Boston Bach International Organ Competition. Also an active composer, Cavagnaro’s compositions have recently been published by Oxford University Press.

Haman currently works as staff accompanist for several ISM ensembles and the Greater New Haven Community Chorus, and is director of music for the Episcopal Church at Yale, and organist/associate director of music at Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, CT. He was a finalist in the AGO’s 2022 improvisation competition where he won third prize and the audience award. He performs throughout the United States and internationally.

Nicholas Quardokus is canon organist and director of music at Grace Church Cathedral. Previously, he served as assistant organist at Saint Thomas Church, New York City, organ scholar at St. Paul’s Parish in Washington D.C., and part-time interim assistant at the Washington National Cathedral. His principal teachers included Janette Fishell and Martin Jean (organ), Elisabeth Wright and Arthur Haas (harpsichord), and Jeffrey Brillhart (improvisation). Nicholas has garnered top prizes in competitions around the country and has performed throughout the Eastern United States.
Learn more about studying organ at Yale.

View previous story published on March 27: Four ISM alumni in semi-finals for national organ improvisation competition