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Roberta Bitgood Scholars

The Roberta Bitgood Organ Scholarship was created in 1993 by the American Guild of Organists, New London County Chapter, following a successful nationwide fundraising effort which had been launched in support of the chapter's planned two-day event in celebration of Dr. Bitgood's 85th birthday and her long career as a church musician. Because Dr. Bitgood was known to organists and choir singers from coast to coast, responses to the call for support of the Roberta Bitgood Jubilee program had far exceeded expectations, and more than satisfied the immediate need to defray the costs of holding the event. The Jubilee program included a recital by Dr. Bitgood's former student Carl Staplin (given on Saturday, May 1, 1993) at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich, Connecticut, and a concert of Bitgood compositions (given on Sunday, May 2, 1993) at Harkness Chapel, Connecticut College. Local organists, choir singers, and instrumentalists collaborated in preparing this concert, joined by Eileen Hunt, organist of Green's Farms Congregational Church in Westport, Connecticut. After the excitement of the Bitgood Jubilee had come and gone, the New London County AGO executive board resolved to use the remaining Jubilee moneys to establish a scholarship fund in Dr. Bitgood's honor, to perpetuate her legacy of concern for the development of new organists and her evangelism for the profession of organ playing amongst the young. The Jubilee donors were so notified, and through the years further contributions to the Bitgood Scholarship fund have been steadily received.

Roberta Bitgood, FAGO, 1931
Roberta Bitgood, FAGO, 1931.

The Scholarship endeavors to assist pianists and beginning organists who would like to study the organ in depth, regardless of their age, and who intend to seek employment as professional church musicians. Recently, the amount of the annual award has been $500. Requirements for the applicant currently include residence in the state of Connecticut, and previous keyboard experience. Enthusiasm for the organ must be demonstrated, along with musical potential and commitment. Applicants undergo a personal interview with the three scholarship judges, and play two pieces that differ in style in a live performance before the judges. These pieces may be either for piano or organ, or a combination of the two. The scholarship winner will be asked to play his or her pieces for the chapter membership at the its Annual Meeting, generally held in early June.

Some terms of the award include: No cash is given to the scholarship winner; the award is given on a per lesson basis directly to the selected organ teacher. The New London County Chapter of the American Guild of Organists expects in good faith that the organ teacher will be reasonable in the fee charged for each lesson, and that the winner will receive a minimum of 15-20 lessons. The award is for lessons only. Books and other sheet music are to be purchased at the student’s own expense. After one year's study under the award, the scholarship recipient may choose to appear as a performer in a members' recital held by the New London County AGO chapter as part of its regular program. The recipient may reapply for the scholarship in a following year, but no individual may receive the scholarship for more than two years.



Last revised January 15, 2024

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