Mar. 17, 2021


Many organists fortunately have been blessed with being able to study organ, either privately or as part of a formal university program leading to a degree, with one or more famous names, and many hundreds of thousands of these students, perhaps millions, can rightly claim lineage, tutorially, beginning with their own personal coaches and instructors on back through other famous names and their performance practices.
While this can be impressive from an advertising point of view, being on a direct teacher-pupil succession like this, while it carries the supposition of a certain level of proficiency, is no guarantee of extensive knowledge, consummate skill, or uniqueness in performance.
The simple truth of the matter is, without disrespecting anyone in the slightest, that tracing one's pedagogical links is at the end of the day a mostly meaningless exercise.
There are performers who, despite having some educators and influences of considerable fame in their background, for various reasons all good and sufficient simply have not worked at developing their natural facility to its fullest potential; some who can claim being a grandchild or great grandchild, tutorially, on back through a series of important names in the organ world actually have been influenced more by trends from outside that line of succession.
The notion that "caste is oft abused in the classical music world" is probably a fair statement; even so, the gift of humility through legacy grounds the formidable student in history, as organists all stand on the shoulders of their forebears in the pursuit of excellence and being beautifully kind to their own students, just as their own masters were with them.
Still, having studied with some tremendous teachers with distinguished pedigrees doesn't work like "apostolic succession" supposedly does, with the "laying on of hands" -- pretty much anyone who plays the organ can follow their lineage back to someone whose name has secured fame ... and, while it may be mostly if not completely meaningless to other professional organists, it can be a way for management agencies to promote their artists.