Today’s DYKYAGO interview focuses on Nicholas Will, AAGO. Nick received his Bachelor’s of Music Degree from Duquesne University as well as his Master’s of Music from the Peabody Conservatory. He is currently the Director of Music and Liturgy at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carnegie, PA.
What made you decide to play organ, and at what age did you begin to study?
My dad always loved to listen to organ music at home, specifically recordings by Virgil Fox and E. Power Biggs. I was infatuated with the sound of the instrument from a pretty young age, and when my family inherited a Hammond spinet when I was 14, I asked to begin taking lessons.
What are some of the challenges you find as an organist, in your job, musically, or otherwise?
The juxtaposition of the environment of the university or conservatory with that of the average parish can be a shock to the young church musician. Although it’s no surprise, it’s nonetheless discouraging when people in the pews are more interested in fourth-rate composers than in Byrd, Bach, or Messiaen. One of the biggest challenges (and joys) for many church musicians today, including myself, is to share with our choirs and congregations why this ageless music is still relevant, and to help them to love it as much as we do.
What is your favorite city in which to live?
Pittsburgh, of course!
What is your favorite vacation place?
I’ve only been there a few times, but Europe is pretty tough to beat, especially Germany.
What has been your most memorable moment as a church musician?
Playing and directing for an episcopal ordination has got to be the most memorable so far.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy doing handyman things around the house and working on cars.
What is your favorite Bach piece?
Passacaglia in c minor
If you had the chance to meet a deceased organist or composer, who would it be and why? Explain the scenario in which you would meet him/her.
I think meeting Bach would be fascinating, because he lived a busy life not unlike that of many church musicians today, filled with familial commitments and mundane extra-musical tasks. All the while, though, he was crafting what is arguably the greatest music ever written. I would just like to have the opportunity to watch him from a distance, as he created his masterpieces in the midst of daily life.
Liszt or Karg-Elert?
How did you study for the AAGO? Any tips for upcoming test-takers?
I don’t remember a lot of details, but I know I dusted off Grout’s “History of Western Music” and spent a lot of time practicing transposition.
What is your favorite piece you have played thus far?
That’s tough, but I’d have to say it’s either the Bach Prelude and Fugue in E-flat or the Liszt Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H.
Lastly, what do you like about being a young person in the Pittsburgh AGO?
Being a young person in our chapter is wonderful, because there many other young members out there, which is great for morale. I’ve also found that the more seasoned members are always welcoming, encouraging, and incredibly supportive. I have always been thankful for their wisdom and leadership.
A special “Thank you!” to Nick for being a part of the DYKYAGO series.
As we reach the end of January, are you planning your own Lenten season? Do you have any favorite choral anthems that you want to share?
Happy Monday, everyone!