Mr. Brad Cunningham
The Organ Academy was created for faith-filled students who demonstrate musical talent to explore the possibility of a vocation in church music. Also, it’s just cool to learn how to play the world’s most awesome musical machine ever invented. Students who enroll receive academic credit. Formative and Summative assessments are given in accordance with Cardinal Newman High School standards.
Our first year to offer this program was 2018-19. Four students enrolled. The 2019-20 school year began with three of those students returning, and two new students joining the program.
Students receive one-on-one weekly instruction on the Cardinal Newman chapel organ. Additionally, students participate in at least one off-campus field trip each year to see, hear, play, and explore pipe organs in and around Columbia. We visited St. John and Trinity Cathedral Episcopal churches our first year. USC Recital Hall and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary are on the schedule in 2019-20. Also for 2019-20, students can expect to engage in assembling a mini pipe organ to learn how a mechanical action pipe organ (see picture below) works. And yes! The students will be able to play the organ they have assembled (if we don't mess up!)
Students with or without prior music-reading or piano/keyboard skills should enter this program. There is a shortage of trained church organists. Knowing how to play the organ is not only something you can give back to God, it can help pay your college tuition, for the worker is worth his keep! College freshmen who have three-four years of formal organ training under their belt can hold down a 10 hour-per-week church organist job paying $12-18K annually. Later in life, you can choose to enter church music as a part or full time position, or enter a different vocation, but still enjoy playing church organ in a 10 hr. per week position, or you can have no church organist position; simply know that you belong to a unique group of people who have learned to play an awesome musical instrument.
Students with prior music-reading and piano/keyboard skills begin organ instruction immediately upon acceptance in the program.
Students with no prior music-reading or keyboard skills meet with the instructor for a basic music aptitude skills assessment. If the instructor determines the student has potential for developing music skill, the student enters the academy following a custom curriculum designed to teach the student basic music-reading and piano/keyboard skills. After completing one semester of instruction, the student, parents, and instructor determine to move forward into the second semester or not. Depending on the skill level and dedication of the student with no prior music training, the student can begin transitioning to organ instruction after one school year, or halfway through their second year of instruction.
Course requirements: $400 tuition fee per semester, paid at the beginning of the semester; student must complete 15 30-minute private lessons per semester; student must log no fewer than five 25-minute practice sessions weekly either during school skinnies or at home.