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With his feet dancing along the peddles and his hands summoning sound from the keys, concert organist Douglas Cleveland, Ph.D, entertained his audience Sept. 14 in the University of South Dakota’s own Aalfs Auditorium. Cleveland started the night of with Concerto in A Minor by J.S. Bach and three songs later ended it with Sonata No. 1, Op. 42 by Alexandre Guilmante.
“Hearing the organ at my hometown [Olympia, Washington] church was really inspiring, especially singing the hymns with the pipe organ—a lot of majesty and colors,” Cleveland said.
He had studied the piano first and fell in love, but he was attracted to the organ because of all the possibilities of colors and the breath variations of its volume.
First, Cleveland won the 1994 American Guild of Organists National Young Artists Competition in Dallas. Since then, he has performed all over the nation. He has also performed with several symphonies including the Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Northwestern University Symphony and the National Symphony. He claims his favorite experience was playing at the Moscow Conservatory in Russia.
“The main thing that inspires me is traveling and meeting people,” Cleveland said. “Being able to play in different spaces and concert halls throughout the world lets me see different aspects of architecture, which is a real love of mine. It plays a big part of being inspired when I travel, because organs are usually in beautiful spaces.”
Many of his performances have been broadcasted nationally and overseas. National Public Radio, the BBC and the Northwest radio program “The Organ Loft” have played his works. Cleveland has received critical acclamation on his four CDs—“Cleveland in Columbus” shines as his most recent. Amongst his many accomplishments, he has been a member of the jury of several organ competitions. Also, while teaching at Northwestern University he received the Searle Award for Teaching Excellence.
Now Douglas Cleveland currently serves on the organ faculty at the University of Washington School of Music and is also the director of music at Plymouth Church in Seattle. Cleveland plans to continue to teach, play and inspire with the music of the organ for the remainder of his life.
Cleveland finished by advising aspiring musician students of USD, “Learn as much as you can about music. Work hard and take advantage of all the opportunities that you can here with such a talented faculty.”
The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."