The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 in New York City, the AGO now serves more than 17,000 voting members in over 340 chapters throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, with 1,000 subscribing members worldwide. Membership is open to all working professionals – organists, teachers, choir directors, organ builders, technicians, and suppliers to the field – as well as students, clergy, dedicated supporters, and amateur musicians. Founded as both an educational and service organization, the Guild seeks to set and maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music.
Programs include a comprehensive series of examinations for professional certification and an extensive list of publications and educational resources. The Guild sponsors competitions in organ performance and improvisation and in organ and choral composition. National and regional conventions, held in alternating years, present the finest performers and teachers. The American Organist magazine (TAO), published monthly by the AGO, is the most widely read journal devoted to organ and choral music in the world. Articles cover contemporary and historic instruments; musicological studies; reviews of new music, books, and recordings; practical aspects of sacred music practice; listings of resources and events; and news of the field, plus display and classified advertising. Other publications of the Guild include books, recordings and resources on topics as diverse as performance practice, organ construction, and compensation. An important benefit of Guild membership is the vast communications network provided not only through personal contact with colleagues locally and nationally, but also through The American Organist, which keeps members up to date with the profession by providing both scholarly and practical features and timely news of the Guild and its members. Chapter newsletters serve the same function on the local level, and chapter placement services and Positions Available listings in The American Organist and on AGO’s web site keep members aware of employment opportunities nationwide.
The AGO’s commitment to improving non-musical aspects of the working life of organists and choral conductors is reflected in its programs in professional concerns: cooperation with national denominational officials to influence policies regarding employment; work with seminaries to broaden the musical education of clergy and the theological education of musicians; and development of publications and materials to assist individual members. Again, THE AMERICAN ORGANIST provides a forum for relevant articles ranging from tax planning to staff relations to salary guidelines. Chapter professional concerns committees provide a support base as well as practical assistance through local employment and compensation guidelines and placement services. The Guild’s commitment to the future of organ and choral music is evident in its highly successful summer Pipe Organ Encounters for high school musicians, its National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, and the work of the Committee on the New Organist. Through the national organization, Guild members are eligible for group term life, disability income, major medical, in-hospital and long-term-care insurance plans; a Guild-sponsored credit card; and discounts on auto rentals. Membership is through local chapters, which hold regular meetings featuring performances, lectures, seminars, and discussions on a wide variety of topics. Chapters also offer services such as musician placement and substitute referrals to both members and employing institutions.
The Cleveland Chapter has non-profit, 501(c)(3) status; donations are welcome and will be used to benefit the chapter. The national organization of the American Guild of Organists also has non-profit status and welcomes donations.