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Brand New CD Release and Reflections

Much has happened musically in the last month: the end of my first year at Curtis, four concerts, and the completion of my first big recording. Now that I’ve had time to catch up, I thought I’d fill you in briefly on the details of each.

Bryan at Bryn Athyn Booklet CoverFirst and foremost, I am very excited to (finally) announce the release of my new CD on Bryn Athyn’s new Skinner/Kegg organ. This turned into quite the project, putting to work things I’d learned at Curtis and elsewhere, from audio engineering to graphic design and, of course, playing. I am very pleased with the result and hope you will be too. Many heartfelt thanks to all those who helped in this project, without whom this would not have been possible. Details on how to obtain your copy can be found below or on the recordings page. As always, I highly recommend the physical CD; this way you will get all the photos, notes, stoplist, etc. that are not online. There are also videos from the recording process that can be found on YouTube. Enjoy!

  • Bryan Dunnewald, Organ in his newest recording, Bryan at Bryn Athyn, the premiere recording of the 2014 E.M. Skinner / Kegg organ at Bryn Athyn Cathedral. Featuring a diverse collection of works showcasing the instrument’s breadth of color, including the recording premiere of Calvin Hampton’s First Suite for Organ (1977). This album also contains works of Sowerby, Mozart, Franck and Dupré. The high quality CD can be ordered here, as well as on many digital music websites such as iTunes and Amazon.

The concerts were a blast – all unique and great organs with gracious, wonderful hosts. Of particular note is the incredible Schoenstein organ at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln. It is without question one of my very favorite organs in an excellent room: so expressive and versatile, with exquisite colors and every feature needed to make life easier without going overboard. One of the most fun parts of traveling is meeting the different audiences. From tourists at National Cathedral to a full house of mainly college students at St. Mark’s, each gave a unique and equally great energy, making my job much more enjoyable and rewarding. This trip was such a pleasure – I hope to return to all of these places again and look forward to more adventures and destinations ahead! Photos from the concerts can be found on the photos page. Recordings available by request.

And finally, I thought I’d share a reflection which attempts to squeeze a plethora of great experiences into a few paragraphs:

As my first year of study at the Curtis Institute comes to an end, I find it breathtaking how much change has gone on in just one year. Most notable, in the grand scheme of things, was my transition from high school to college: Interlochen Arts Academy to the Curtis Institute of Music.

Since coming to Curtis last fall, my organ life has been ever expanding under the excellent teaching and mentorship of Alan Morrison, the primary reason I came out here. Not only do we learn about how to approach the music we play, we also learn about how to teach ourselves. Alan pushes us to set artistic goals, back them up, and see to it that they’re achieved. I should also note that, as was the case at Interlochen, I’m learning just as much from my peers as my teachers. It’s incredible the colleagues and friends I’m so lucky to have here; an inspiring and motivating way to spend my days!

Within the past year, I’ve also become very attached to the Anglo-Catholic music traditions; with St. Mark’s and St. Clement’s within blocks, it’s hard not to. The organ and church music community here is very supportive, and offers great opportunities for us to learn the ropes. At Bryn Athyn Cathedral, where I served as Assistant Organist this year, we installed a new Skinner/Kegg organ in the fall, which has been a fascinating process to watch. Forty-six ranks fills the cathedral and then some, with the sweet and warm Skinner sounds plus some more bite from the Kegg additions – a wonderful marriage of colors. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite instruments, the Kimball at St. John’s Cathedral, Denver.

In September, I met my first set of new colleagues, whom I now call friends, in Philadelphia. There are only 177 students here in total, so we got to know each other quite quickly. I think this explains my biggest and most welcome surprise about Curtis: despite our high demands, culturally we’re very relaxed and friendly. Of course, this is a generalization, and it does get stressful, but these are not ways I would’ve thought to describe an East Coast conservatory. Educationally, Curtis is very accommodating and lends itself well to a curious and self-driven student (which I do my best to be): there are many opportunities waiting behind unlocked doors for someone willing to open them. With an average class size of six students, curriculum becomes more malleable and individual. Our other main ideal is to “learn by doing,” a phrase that’s tossed around a lot here. It’s less about classes and assignments as it is getting out and doing, with mentors to guide us. As cliché as this has become, it works: want to learn about Anglican music? We’ll help you find a great job to learn under a mentor choirmaster. Want to learn how to conduct? Take some lessons and then go do it; we’ll provide the orchestra. It’s an amazing array of possibilities and I feel very fortunate to be able to tap into them.

It is remarkable what brilliant teachers and mentors I’ve been able to have, and what support from family and community has surrounded me; for this I am forever thankful. They are the reason I’m able to take advantage of these opportunities. Here’s to another great year!

– Bryan Dunnewald, 24 June 2015