St Peter’s Episcopal Church Assistant Organist and Choirmaster, Garrett John Law, is also Assistant Director of The Choir School at St. Peter’s and a frequent performer with Center City Concerts. We recently spoke with Garrett, a native of Toledo, Ohio. Here are a few things he told us.
Q: Tell us a bit about your musical training and professional experience as an organist.
A: I’ve been fortunate to have caring teachers and mentors from the very beginning. I started learning piano at the age of10 and organ at 12. My first organ teacher gave me my first opportunities to play for church services and instilled me with a wonder of music. As a teenager I spent three years in the woods of northern Michigan at the Interlochen Arts Academy. At Interlochen I was surrounded by visual artists, actors, film-makers, dancers, and creative writers. I then moved to Cleveland where I took my first position as assistant organist at an Episcopal Church and studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). Elizabeth Lenti was on the faculty at CIM at the time and little did I know that she would become my mentor and colleague here in Charlotte!
Q: You have recently committed to diversifying your repertoire choices. What caused this and how do you find new music?
A: Classical music has a diversity issue. According to research conducted by the Institute for Composer Diversity on the 2019-2020 season of over 100 American orchestras, of all works performed, 16% were by living composers, 8% by female composers, and only 6% were by composers from underrepresented racial, ethnic, & cultural heritages. I’ve thought about this issue for a while, but the summer of 2020 made it impossible for me to stand idle. In the midst of a national reckoning on racial justice, The Sphinx Organization published a call to action for individuals, educational institutions, performing groups, and performing arts presenters. I invite you to read more here. I’ll admit that it is not always easy to find diverse music. It takes a conscious effort to seek out repertoire that is underrepresented. I find most new music by searching online databases dedicated to diversity, seeking out the lesser-known works of prolific composers, and observing what other musicians are programming.
Q: Any recommendations for music to listen to?
A: Yes! George Walker “Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra”. This piece made Walker the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996. Listen here.
Click on the images below to hear organ performances from Garrett.