Organist Paul Jacobs Receives Honorary Degree from Washington and Jefferson College

Organist Paul Jacobs Receives Honorary Degree from Washington and Jefferson College

Organist Paul Jacobs Receives Honorary Degree from Washington and Jefferson College

Grammy-Award winning organist Paul Jacobs has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the venerable Washington and Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pennsylvania. The ceremony took place on campus on Saturday afternoon, May 20, 2017.

Flanking Paul Jacobs after the ceremony are, on the left, George Rau, his first organ teacher, and his high school piano teacher Susan Woodard on the right.

In citing Mr. Jacobs' many achievements, Washington and Jefferson College President Tori Haring-Smith said the following: "You champion classical music from the 16th century to today, spanning time and place to help audiences forget the mind-numbing sounds that bombard them every day and replace those with profoundly delicate melodies and thundering chords that create a keen experience of beauty. As head of the organ department, you train brilliant young musicians to think innovatively about the organ and to collaborate with other musicians and composers to expand the instrument's repertoire. You teach your students to become co-orchestrators, working, as you do, until the early morning hours, to determine just the right stops to make the music sing."

And, quoting from The Yale Alumni Magazine, President Haring-Smith commented, "you approach the organ by 'blissfully revealing its infinitude,' and concluded, "for your joyous advocacy of the organ, for your passionate commitment to reviving classical music, and for your devotion to educating the audiences and great musicians of tomorrow, we honor you..."

Mr. Jacobs was appointed head organist of Washington's parish of 3,500 when he was just 15 years old. He has since gone on to many more firsts. By the age of 23, Mr. Jacobs had performed the complete organ works of J.S. Bach in an 18-hour non-stop marathon in 2000. Just four years later, in 2004, he was appointed chair of the organ department at Juilliard, the youngest department chair in Juilliard's 112-year history. That same year, he became the first organist to receive the Harvard Musical Association's Arthur W. Foote Award. With a concert in Anchorage, Alaska in 2009, at age 32, he reached the milestone of having performed in all 50 United States. Perhaps most significantly Mr. Jacobs became the first organist ever to receive a Grammy Award, thrusting him into the cultural mainstream in 2011 for his Olivier Messiaen recording.

Today there is not another living organist who either consistently commissions or encourages important composers to write for the organ; these include Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus, Christopher Theofanidis, and Christopher Rouse. Unusual for an organist, Mr. Jacobs regularly performs with such major U.S. orchestras as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Pacific Symphony.

Photo Credit: Fran Kaufman