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WINSTON-SALEM – A high school senior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) won first prize at the first High School Organ Competition sponsored by UNCSA, Salem College, and the Winston-Salem Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Alex Gilson of Orange, Texas, won the $2,000 Thomas S. Kenan, III First Prize, which he can exchange for one year of tuition at UNCSA. He also won the $350 John and Margaret Mueller Hymn Prize.

Clara Gerdes, a sophomore from Davidson, N.C., won the $1,000 American Guild of Organists Second Prize. She is home schooled.

Alan Montgomery, a sophomore from Vacaville, Calif., who also attends UNCSA, won third prize.

Gilson and Montgomery are students of Timothy Olsen, who teaches a joint studio of high school, undergraduate and graduate organ majors as the Kenan Professor of Organ at UNCSA. He is also associate professor of organ at Salem College and organist at First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

“The School of Music at UNCSA is proud to co-sponsor the first annual High School Organ Competition,” said Dean Wade Weast. “And we are proud of Dr. Olsen and his students – who fared very well in this year’s competition. We view the competition as a way of recognizing the very best high school organists. We also know it raises the visibility of the school and its fine organ program.”

The competition was held Jan. 28 as part of the UNCSA Keyboard Weekend. In addition to performing in the competition, the students participated in a series of workshops including a master class by Dr. Olsen, a seminar of injury-preventative keyboard techniques by Salem College piano faculty member Barbara Lister-Sink, and Alexander Technique instruction by Suzy Perkins.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.