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Stefan Engels

Leah Young Fullinwider Centennial Chair in Music Performance and Professor of Organ

Stefan Engels was appointed professor of organ and Leah Young Fullinwider Centennial Chair in Music Performance at SMU in 2014, where he is also head of the Organ Department at the Meadows School of the Arts. This appointment was preceded by his positions as professor of organ at the University of Music and Performing Arts “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig, Germany (2005-2015), and as associate professor of organ at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey (1999-2005).

At SMU, Engels teaches students in the Master of Music, Performer’s Diploma, Artist Diploma, and Master of Sacred Music programs. In addition, he teaches classes in organ pedagogy, literature, improvisation and registration, prepares students for participation in competitions, and travels to different churches in the area in order to teach the students at their respective church positions. Many of Engels’ students have won prizes at international competitions and also hold positions as organists at prestigious churches in Dallas. Engels promotes a constructive, collaborative, challenging, positive and inspiring educational environment, where the students greatly support one another.

In the last few years, the organ department at SMU has received two outstanding gifts: a beautiful tracker organ by organ builder Janke (Germany) from 1974, which was the house organ of Prof. Wolfgang Rübsam, internationally acclaimed organist and SMU alum, and a unique 1918 historic Estey Reed organ given by Mrs. Harriet Gilbert from Tyler, Texas. In 2019, under the leadership of Engels and the Perkins School of Theology, a historic organ by E. M. Skinner from 1927 was purchased and is awaiting renovation and installation in Perkins Chapel in 2023. Further plans are underway for the creation of a copy of a historic organ by Arp Schnitger to be built by German organ builder Hendrik Ahrend.

While a professor in Leipzig, Engels founded the European Organ Academy and served as its artistic director. With its international faculty and student body, the Academy gained a reputation as one of the leading organ academies worldwide and received significant grants from the German Academic Exchange Service. Engels played a significant role in creating and organizing the Leipzig International Competition in Organ Improvisation.

As an advocate, champion and specialist in the music of the late-Romantic German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Engels founded the Karg-Elert Festival, demonstrating and discovering the unique organ, piano and chamber music works of this Leipzig composer. Recently Engels finished the world premiere recording of the complete organ works of Karg-Elert. This recording project has been reviewed to international critical acclaim: “…this series will surely stand as the greatest project the gramophone has achieved in organ music for very many years… 10 fantastic volumes of some of the most creative and complex organ music ever written has been released by Priory in this ground breaking series of Karg-Elert’s complete organ works - much of it unrecorded… Engels has the measure of both music and instrument - there is much to marvel at here… Engels is a player of exceptional talent and in his hands Karg-Elert receives as sympathetic an advocacy as one could ever imagine… Stefan Engels’ performance is superlative… Engels delivers interpretations that may never be bettered ... A magnificent disc.”

Engels maintains a vigorous international concert schedule and is a sought-after teacher, having presented workshops, lectures and master classes in many major cities across the European continent, Iceland, North America, Russia and South Korea. He has been praised for his creative programming, including the presentation of significant but lesser-known organ works from a broad spectrum of the organ repertory, as well as for his engaging and inspiring teaching.

He regularly serves on juries at the world’s leading organ competitions, such as the St. Albans International Organ Competition in the United Kingdom, the Canadian International Organ Competition in Montreal, the German Music Competition and the International Bach Competition in Leipzig.

Engels’ broad musical education took place in Germany and the United States.  He studied organ, piano, harpsichord, choral conducting and sacred music at the universities in Aachen, Düsseldorf and Cologne. From 1993 until 1998 he pursued further organ studies with the late Robert T. Anderson at SMU and with Wolfgang Rübsam at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Engels achieved his international breakthrough when he was awarded the “Concerto Gold Medal” at the 1998 Calgary International Organ Competition. Since then he has been represented by Karen McFarlane Artists Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio.

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