Q&A with Andrew Scanlon
Andrew Scanlon directs the organ and sacred music studies program at ECU, and he is the organist-choirmaster at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Scanlon also serves as the artistic director of the East Carolina Musical Arts Education Foundation. Scanlon received his master of music degree from Yale University and his bachelor of music degree from Duquesne University. Scanlon, who arrived in Greenville in 2009, was a member of the organ faculty at Duquesne University, director of music at First Presbyterian Church, and conductor of the Pittsburgh Compline Choir. He formerly held positions at St. Paul’s Cathedral (Buffalo), Christ & St. Stephen’s Church (New York City) and Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. Scanlon has performed concerts at some of the world’s most significant religious venues including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (New York), Notre-Dame Cathedral, the American Cathedral and La Trinité Church (Paris) as well as other destinations in France, Italy, England, and Croatia.
How did you become interested in music?
As a young student, I was accepted into a choir school at a church north of Boston, Massachusetts where I lived and was raised. I began singing on a daily basis as a chorister and also studied piano with the choirmaster. I was especially intrigued by the Hook & Hastings organ and would make every effort to watch and listen as the organist played the voluntaries.
What musicians inspire you?
I think any organist would have to consider the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to be a major inspiration. He represents the highest perfection in writing for the organ, and his music and legacy has remained central to our instrument for hundreds of years. In addition to J. S. Bach, I am particularly connected to and inspired by French Romantic organ music and by the organ and choral music of England, more specifically the Tudor period and the 20th century. Some of my most beloved composers include Byrd, Tallis, Tomkins, and Gibbons from the Tudor period, and Britten, Howells, Leighton, and Harris from the 20th century English school.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
I truly love my students and enjoy the challenge of meeting each and every one at their level of ability when they arrive at ECU. I enjoy the very unique profession of the organist and church musician. I enjoy sharing our magnificent instrument and its literature and introducing students to this vast repertoire. I particularly enjoy the little breakthroughs that happen from time to time when a new concept is suddenly embraced and the student begins to move beyond the notes on a page, and expressive music-making results. Even more, I aim to teach in a way that grounds students in the concepts necessary for learning music in an efficient and thorough manner, while still allowing for individual expression.
If we were to look at your iPod or ride with you in your car, what music would we hear?
English choral music. Anything from the Anglican tradition between the years 1500 and 2012.
Any music/songs people might be surprised about when they learn you listen to them?
Probably not. I’m fairly predictable!
Tell us about the Perkins and Wells Memorial Organ and what makes it so unique.
The 2005 Fisk pipe organ at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville is unique for several reasons. First of all, it is special because it is an instrument of the highest artistic and mechanical caliber, but it is also housed in an acoustical environment in which it is able to thrive and work to its maximum potential. The instrument is a medium sized three-manual organ, which is romantic in nature (meaning it is especially suited to playing music of the Romantic era, yet, it’s still flexible enough to play just about everything, including anthem accompaniments and is remarkable at achieving the subtle dynamic effects needed to play for services in the Anglican tradition.
Secondly, the Fisk organ is unique in its many and multiple functions. It resides in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where it is the cornerstone of the church’s extensive, traditional music program and functions in leading worship on Sunday mornings, accompanying the choir, performing with orchestras, etc. In addition, it is ECU’s principal teaching and performing instrument. All organ majors have their lessons on the Fisk organ and are assigned regular practice privileges. All students perform their degree recitals at St. Paul’s. Hence, the Fisk organ and its home, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, combine to offer a unique, hands-on training ground for the next generation of church musicians, many of whom serve churches throughout the United States and fill much needed positions in eastern North Carolina.
What makes the organ and sacred music program at ECU special?
Our program is one of the few public programs in the United States that offers a full range of elective courses in organ and sacred music. Students who attend ECU benefit from access to our world-class Fisk organ in addition to some of the most affordable tuition rates anywhere. Our faculty is dedicated, young, and enthusiastic. We offer outstanding choral training, performance opportunities throughout the region, and plenty of practice instruments in the School of Music, including two mechanical action organs. Our program offers a stellar education considering the tuition rates. Even out-of-state students can afford a top-notch degree at ECU. Courses offered in the organ/sacred music area include: Applied Organ, Piano, and Harpsichord, Service Playing (which includes preparation for AGO exams), Organ History, Literature, and Design, Organ Pedagogy, Philosophy and Practice of Sacred Music, History of Christian Worship and Music, and Choral Conducting.
This has been a production of East Carolina University. To hear more, please visit www.ecu.edu/treasuredtunes.