It was a beautiful spring day on June 13 of last year. I awoke to the lilting sounds of seagulls and the salty aroma of the ocean. As I made my way to Merrill Auditorium early in the morning I wondered what I was actually getting myself into. In a couple of hours’ time I would be performing my audition for the position of Municipal Organist, and in that short time I’d need to tame one of the wildest, largest, and most renowned pipe organs in the world and perform a 45-minute audition for the committee.

It obviously went fairly well and, as they say, the rest is history. I was humbled and overjoyed to be announced the Eleventh Municipal Organist. Being a City position it wasn’t until several months later in September that the Mayor was able to finally bestow the title. We had to keep everything under wraps for what seemed like a lifetime!

I do not exaggerate when I say I have the best organist job in the country. The Kotzschmar is a world-famous instrument of the kind that they just don’t make anymore. The recent restoration has left the organ in tip-top condition. We have a superb Executive Director, Board, and an incredibly supportive audience. It’s now time to maximize our efforts to get our message out into the wider community. Some of my colleagues recently performed an organ concert in London to over 4000 people. Even though we’re dealing with technology that’s over a century old and with repertoire that’s sometimes hundreds of years old, people still love it. Our task is to find those people, and bring them to Merrill. We’re also continuing the essential work of reaching out to young people through our education events, creating the next generation of FOKO supporters. I look forward to a time when our concerts are sold out, and we can do it!

It seems like a lifetime since my début concert back in April, but what an occasion that was. The organ sounded fabulous and it was a thrill to entertain you with some of the greatest music written for the instrument. Even as I sat there during the performance I couldn’t help but think about my next program on the Kotzschmar. And, speaking of which, we have an amazing lineup of artists for our August concert series, as well as all kinds of exciting things for the 2018-19 season. Read on for details about all of that.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my extraordinarily talented, dedicated predecessor, Ray Cornils. Ray’s tenure has been a source of inspiration to me for years, and it is with the greatest sense of pride that I carry on his work.

I can’t wait to see you all in August!

With my very best wishes,

—James Kennerley

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