Biographical

The creator of this web site was born at a very early age in Saint Louis, Missouri.  When he was a year old his parents moved to the city of Affton in the Saint Louis Metro area where he grew up.  Upon graduation from Affton high school with a diploma of special distinction he attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he earned a baccalaureate degree in physiology.  He continued his education at Washington University in Saint Louis where he graduated with the degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine and practiced as a trusted and respected doctor of dentistry in Missouri for over four decades until his retirement.

At the age of thirteen without any outside persuasion or prior musical concernment whatsoever Dr. Monrotus expressed an interest in playing the Organ.  His teachers, all of whom are now deceased, included Robert Thompson, James Frazier, Gregory Cohn, Henri DeKiersgieter, and Dr. Mario Salvador.  During his teen years he was heavily influenced by his friendship with and the dramatic and extended song arrangements of world class theatre organist Don Baker.  Much later in life he resumed intensive private instruction with his mentor, John Weissrock, at the Church of the Gesu on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

After serving four consecutive years as organist for his local parish church he joined the organist staff at the Saint Louis Scottish Rite Cathedral where part of his duties involved being choir rehearsal pianist.  While serving as Principal Organist there he became the first and only Freemason in Missouri Masonic history to be appointed to the offices of and to serve simultaneously as 1) Grand Musician of the Grand Lodge of Missouri A.F. & A.M., 2) Grand Organist of the Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons, 3) Grand Organist of the Grand Council Cryptic Masons, 4) Grand Organist of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar, 5) General Grand Organist of the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International, 6) General Grand Musician of the General Grand Council Cryptic Masons International, 7) Grand Organist of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America, and 8) Provincial Grand Organist of the Provincial Grand Court for the U.S.A., Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales, & its Provinces Overseas.

Dr. Monrotus is a member of Saint Louis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (A.G.O.), Saint Louis Theatre Organ Society, and American Composers Forum.  He is a founding member of the Panel of Advisors for the Committee on the New Organist (CONO) of the A.G.O., and his travels have taken him to or through thirty-five states and two Canadian provinces to perform at over forty Masonic venues.  He remains heavily involved in the music ministry and in 2013 became webmaster of OrganBench, an online conceptual learning resource for organists.  Having been blessed with well over 600K visits to date, this web site has become a widely used tool and continues to occupy hundreds of visitors daily.  He also has composed, to the glory of God, over three dozen original compositions for organ grouped into six collections.  Successful plowing in new creative furrows and directions always has significant instructional value, and some bold, different, and (as far as can be known) previously untried procedures have been favorably introduced in this art music which can be expected to capture the interest of the student of composition.  Besides contributing to the contemporary repertoire these pieces also can be put to much practical use by organists in their work and in their ministry.  These scores are obtainable for download and printing at the following links:

noteflight.com/marketplace/search#/keyword:monrotus

sheetmusicplus.com/search?Ntt=monrotus+

sheetmusicdirect.com/en-US/Search.aspx?query=steven%20monrotus

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Today we hear many voices promoting their own talking points, one of which, in effect, is that digging through the chronicles of history for anything pragmatic and applicable to the free-wheeling society of today is generally of little worth if not a complete waste of time.  Sadly, the creative arts have been exposed to that same persuasion despite the reality that the studying and learning what has come before is implicit, distorting or trying to erase it has tangible effects, and nothing from any age is devoid of interest in which the operation of a quick imagination is discernable.  Anyone composing for Organ these days is writing for a medium whose core repertoire spans hundreds of years and is automatically entering into a dialogue with the past and having enduring works for models.  This parley with the past inevitably leads to the inference that nothing in music discloses a more powerful and constant stimulus to the imaginative faculty than contrapuntal methods of tone association.  The argument that counterpoint IS the arterial life's blood of music therefore would not be a difficult one to make.  And, since the Organ is essentially a polyphonic instrument and polyphony is merely the product of the employment of the contrapuntal method, it follows that fugue, the most elaborate of contrapuntal processes, takes precedence as THE Organ piece par excellence.  It should therefore come as no surprise that contrapuntal figuration and various modes of imitation including canon, fugue, fughetta, fugato, and invention procedure should figure prominently in the music of an emerging composer who writes for this instrument today.

Adhering to such measures to write new music is by no means outdated.  The polyphonic Op. 33 Postlude, for example, made it into the 2021 finals of the non-profit YouTube-based Community-Fusion Network Free-For-All competition adjudicated by a team of international experts who received multiple submissions in all categories from over one-hundred-fifty contestants worldwide -- people from many countries who, according to the judges, were among some of the best composers in the world.  The majority (22) of his thirty-nine scores for Organ are stand-alone fugues or fugues paired with a prelude of some sort in which canons and imitations are liberally employed.  Spread across 37 Opus numbers (including Op. 7, a fughetta with introduction) this music is made up of complete, recital-worthy pieces which explore a variety of styles and a broad range of writing.  Most (12) of the fugues (Op. 7, 11, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31) are supplied with tonal answers and the remaining ten (Op. 6, 10, 13, 18, 20, 25, 26, 32, 33, 34) with real answers.  Two of them (Op. 10, 18) start in the soprano voice, five (Op. 11, 22, 23, 26, 30) in the alto, fourteen (Op. 6, 13, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34) in the tenor, and one (Op. 7) in the bass.  Most (15) of them (Op. 6, 7, 10, 11, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34) start on the 1st scale degree, but four (Op. 19, 27, 29, 30, all having modulating subjects requiring tonal answers) start on the 3rd scale degree, two (Op. 22, 26) on the 5th scale degree, and one (Op. 13) on the 2nd scale degree.

None of the fugues in these collections are classified as "simple fugues" because this term implies no recurring countersubject -- all of them are in fact supplied with at least two recurring countersubjects, and many have three.  Each fugue is written in triple (or quadruple) counterpoint, this because each fugue subject and its multiple countersubjects take turns entering at least once in the bass.  Consistent features are relatively long subjects, short codettas linking entries in the opening exposition, and short episodes generally of equal length linking all subsequent entries permitting a rapid and weighty development, all of which combine to give these pieces a signature construction and sound.  One of them (Op. 20) is supplied with a counterexposition, but others make moves which are far bolder, undaunted, and unexpected:  four are supplied with redundant (5th) entries during which all 4 moving lines either are inverted (Op. 18), modulate to the relative key (Op. 22, 31), or modulate a whole tritone distant from the home key (Op. 33); another (Op. 11) is a double fugue in which the 2nd subject is introduced using invention rather than fugal procedure and carries on with a countersubject that exists in two forms, both of which reappear in the final combinatory section.  Certain pieces are also thematically related:  for example, the subject from Op. 26 is the Op. 25 subject inverted -- the Op. 33 subject is the Op. 32 subject inverted -- the 1st countersubject from Op. 28 is the Op. 27 subject inverted.  The theme of the Op. 5 Prelude and the subject of the Op. 6 Fugue also were both derived by rhythmic transformation (same pitches, different note values) of the main theme from the Op. 4 Variations.

These scores are currently available as digital downloads from Noteflight Marketplace, Sheet Music Plus, and Sheet Music Direct, and some appear on YouTube.  This music also may be viewed as slide shows on this web site.

Those who love polyphonic tonal music in this style built upon chord relationships with no ambiguity of key also should revere the impulse that would push one to the edges of tonality, if not beyond.  A good deal of music of great beauty has been written within regions of musical space where the tonal fences are shaky but still standing, and some composers have pushed their music successfully into tonally rarified atmospheres well beyond that.  Art forms destined to have a future subsist on energy innovation like this -- in the case of music by keeping the best from the musical language of composers from the past and doing something different, interesting, and unexpected with it that nobody's ever heard or tried before.  At the same time, with music today being divided into the sad dichotomy of tonal versus atonal, the temptation to view through a preferential prism more recently composed musical works which either strictly obey or tend to drift from traditional rules of tonal grammar and syntax and to weigh them too early in their life before they have withstood the test of time also seems to be ever-present.  But for those who believe that new music should be cogent, concise, contrapuntally savvy, listener-friendly, definitely of our time, and weighed by its discernable formal architecture, the quality of its thematic material, the bold moves it makes, the speed of its harmonic rhythm, and how it stands up under usage, such scores, often considered by their composers are mere trifles compared to the masterpieces of others, have been known to appeal to a broad group of musicians and music lovers over a span of time, cultures, and places, to have a life beyond their original premiere, and possibly labored over, loved, interrogated, and admired by future generations.