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about Aaron

Concert organist Aaron Tan is a leading young artist in North America. In October 2021 he was awarded First Prize at the 2021 Canadian International Organ Competition as well as three additional awards for performances of specific works at the competition (the Sir Ernest MacMillan Award for Canadian competitors, the award for best performance of a work by Marcel Dupré, and best performance of a work by a Canadian composer). Originally from the Philippines and Canada, he is an organist and pianist who enjoys multi-faceted careers as a musician and a materials scientist.

Aaron's primary musical tutelage has been with John Tuttle, David Palmer, Joel Hastings, Martin Jean, and David Higgs. His musical upbringing started on the piano and later on the violin. He received his Associate (ARCT) diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada at the age of twelve and went on to earn his Licentiate (LTCL) and Fellowship (FTCL) diplomas in Piano Performance from Trinity College of Music, London, England, at 13 and 15 years of age, respectively. When he was 18, he also completed his ARCT diploma in Violin Performance.

In 2004, under the auspices of the Barwell Scholarship (awarded to pianists interested in learning the organ), he began organ studies with John Tuttle while concurrently entering as a freshman in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. Since then, he has gone on to complete both Associate (ARCCO) and Fellowship (FRCCO) diplomas in organ from the Royal Canadian College of Organists (RCCO). In addition, he has also won numerous noteworthy contests and scholarships including First Prize at the American Guild of Organists 2018 National Young Artist Competition in Organ Performance, the Toronto RCCO Young Organists Competition, the Osborne Organ Competition of the Summer Institute of Church Music (Ontario), the RCCO's National Organ Playing Competition, the Charlotte Hoyt Bagnall Scholarship for Church Musicians, the Lilian Forsyth Scholarship, the 2012 Poland International Piano Festival Competition, the West Chester University Organ Competition, the Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition, the Sursa American Organ Competition.

Having recently received both MM and MMA degrees in organ from Yale University, Aaron is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester New York. Aaron also holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan and worked there as a postdoctoral researcher in the University's Laboratory for Complex Materials and Thin Films Research, studying the dielectric and thermal properties of polymer thin films.

Aaron has served as Organ Scholar at St. John's Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan, Artist in Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, Assistant Organist at Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Organ Scholar at the Church of the Resurrection, New York City, and currently serves as Director of Music at St. Alban?s Catholic Church (Ordinariate) in Rochester New York. In 2019, Aaron released his first commercial recording, "Impressions".

More information about Aaron's musical interests and activities can be found at www.AaronTan.org

Updated 2021.XI.16

about Aaron (abbreviated)

Concert organist Aaron Tan is a leading young artist in North America. He is the only person to have received first-prize in three of the most major North American organ competitions: the Canadian RCCO National Organ Competition, the AGO National Young Artists Competitionin Organ Playing (NYACOP), and most recently in October 2021, the Canadian International Organ Competition. Originally from the Philippines and Canada, he is an organist and pianist who enjoys multi-faceted careers as a musician and a materials scientist. His primary musical tutelage has been with John Tuttle, David Palmer, Joel Hastings, Martin Jean, and David Higgs.

Mr. Tan is currently pursuing doctoral studies at Eastman School of Music and also serves as Organist and Director of Music at St. Alban's Catholic Church (Ordinariate in Rochester, NY). He recently received his MM and MMA from Yale University. Previously he has served as Organ Scholar at St. John's Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan, Artist in Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, and Organ Scholar at the Church of the Resurrection, New York City.

As a scientist, Aaron holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Michigan and worked there as a postdoctoral researcher after earning his degree, studying polymer thin films.

More information about Aaron's musical interests and activities can be found at www.AaronTan.org.

Updated 2022.I.22

Music and Science: Parallel Pursuits
October 2013

In 2013, I was asked to write an article for The American Organist magazine about my parallel careers in science and music. Here is a scanned copy of the published article. ()


statement on church music
January 2008

As a church musician, I would consider the primary venue of my music-making to be a worship service. Of course, there are also other places where music is needed in religious institutions, such as parish dinners, concerts, dance classes or evangelistic outreach meetings. Though it is a form of artistic expression (since all music, to some degree, is artistic expression), music used during worship is not “art for art’s sake”. Music used in worship serves a specific function which is different from that of music used in the other scenarios mentioned above.

Having a misunderstanding of or neglecting to reflect on the role of music (and art) in worship has given rise to ecclesiastical conflicts in both the past and present over what is acceptable, good, bad, and so on. Puritans and Reformed churches rejected much of the choral and organ music used in mainline churches today due to it being “appealing only to the ear, inarticulate, and uninstructive, and utterly foreign to the intention of the scriptures”. Many churches today have also abandoned historical repertories to adopt musical idioms that are in line with those of popular culture, in an attempt to be more relevant, approachable and inclusive. In the face of such controversy and choice, I will try here to describe my attempt to carefully define for myself the function of music used in worship, in order that I can begin to resolve the aforementioned issues and choose from the repertory wisely.

In the most general sense, the purpose of employing music during worship is to work with the liturgy in directing people’s minds and spirits to God. This can take many forms, depending on its placement in the service. Chanting a Psalm using only simple organ accompaniment would inspire people to be prayerful. Other examples of this “directional” use of music would be using a hymn of thanks led by a bold and enthusiastic choir and organist to help people sing joyfully, improvising during the Communion to evoke reverence and meditation, or choosing a prelude that would be connected to the season or festival currently being celebrated in the Church Year. In many of the above examples, music chosen and presented is in direct parallel with the words that are spoken in the same service. The combination of good liturgy and good music is a powerful force that directs the spirits and minds of those present to focus on the Divine. It is because of this that I consider the task given to a church musician to be one that has substantial consequences. Though it can be a tool of great spiritual help, music can also be a sacrilegious distraction if used improperly. Thus, leaders in the music ministry of the Church must be trained to do their task with reverence and sensibility.

Throughout my life, I would wish to be a part of or take leadership in the music ministry of the community of faith I belong to. As a weekly habit of tithing is a reminder of the bounties one is blessed with, so a weekly offering of music to the Church and who it worships is a reminder that music is given as a gift to both the listener and the performer. I am more concerned about the people I would be working with more than where I would work, as people are much harder to change than organs are! Wherever I am called to be, I will aim to present music that is conducive to deep spiritual experience and nourishing to faith.

- A.C.T.