The National Undergraduate Organ Competition was first held in 1973 following a proposal by Dr. H.L. Wormhoudt to the First Presbyterian Church session to hold a competition that “would stimulate undergraduate students in their studies as well as provide the community and surrounding area with an opportunity to enjoy good organ music.” Clyde Holloway served as the first judge for the inaugural competition on the newly installed Tellers Organ. Since then, judges from across the nation have served as recitalists and judges for the competition. Competition winners, including Lynn Trapp in 1984, who will be one of the judges in 2023, have gone on to hold various positions in churches and institutions of higher education.

The competition was held yearly up until the early 2000’s when it was stopped due to various circumstances. A serendipitous series of events beginning in 2020 led to renewed interest in resurrecting the competition. In 2021, First Presbyterian Church contracted with Matthew Penning of Iowa City to help reorganize the competition and work to resume the tradition in 2023. While the competition has always had a goal of encouraging future church musicians, this year’s event has been designed to have a greater focus on the music of the church. The competition is made possible by a generous gift from the Mort and Virginia Schmucker Charitable Trust. The Schmuckers were ardent music supporters and longtime members of First Presbyterian Church of Ottumwa.

The competition is open to all who are enrolled as an undergraduate student in an accredited institution and currently studying with an organ teacher. Click on the various links to learn how to enter. Questions may be directed to organcompetition@ottumwafpc.org