McIntire Department of Music

Ken Cowan
  • Symposium
  • E. M. Skinner, the Old Cabell Organ, and Issues of Preservation
  • with Barbara Owen, Laurence Libin, and Donald Loach
  • 2:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Minor Hall Auditorium
  • a brief reception will follow
  • Organ Recital
  • Ken Cowan, organist
  • 8:00 p.m.
  • Old Cabell Hall

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, the McIntire Department of Music will host two events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the installation of the E. M. Skinner organ in Old Cabell Hall. An afternoon symposium will feature talks by Barbara Owen, Laurence Libin, and Donald Loach. An evening recital by organist Ken Cowan of Westminster Choir College will showcase the instrument, with emphasis on music from the time of its installation in 1906-07.

Afternoon Colloquium

Laurence Libin is emeritus Research Curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he directed for many years the Department of Musical Instruments, and he is well known as the author of a great many articles, exhibition catalogs, and books on historical instruments. He currently serves as president of the Organ Historical Society. Mr. Libin’s talk is entitled "Cautionary Notes: Reconciling Preservation and Function."

Barbara Owen is perhaps the today’s foremost expert on the history of American organs. She is also a past president of the Organ Historical Society and the author of many books and articles on organs in America. She will present "A Biographical Sketch of Ernest M. Skinner."

Donald Loach is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Virginia, where he directed the choral program for many years and oversaw the major renovation of the Skinner organ in the early 1980s. Professor Loach will offer an oral history of UVA’s Skinner organ entitled "Behind Those Pipes: Cabell Hall and Events in the Life of its Skinner Organ"


"The evening recital will feature Ken Cowan, Professor of Organ at Westminster Choir College and renowned expert on music for Skinner organs. Mr. Cowan will play a program that will focus on music of the period, including the sorts of transcriptions that organists frequently played in the early twentieth century.

Ken Cowan - Biography

Ken Cowan is one of the most sought-after organists in North America. He has performed solo recitals across the United States, Canada, and Europe, and has won numerous awards, including first prizes at the Royal Canadian College of Organists National Competition and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music National Competition. Currently Mr. Cowan serves as Assistant Professor of Organ at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he is the only full-time organ teacher and maintains a full studio of organ students.

A native of Thorold, Ontario, Canada, Mr. Cowan received the Master’s degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, studying organ with Thomas Murray. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied with John Weaver. Previous positions have included Associate Organist and Artist in Residence at Saint Bartholomew’s Church, New York City, Assistant Organist posts at St. James Episcopal Church, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in New York City, and Saint Clement’s Church in Philadelphia. He has also been on the roster of Associate Organists for the famous Wanamaker Grand Court organ in Philadelphia.

Mr. Cowan has been a featured artist at many regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and has been a featured artist at several conventions of the Organ Historical Society and the Royal Canadian College of Organists. He has also recorded several critically acclaimed CDs on the JAV label.



PORTLAND, ME (Regional convention of the American Guild of Organists) “Mr. Cowan’s technical mastery, expressivity, musicality, and sheer brilliance thrilled the convention audience.” - The American Organist

PHILADELPHIA, PA “ His playing was nothing short of superb.” - The Diapason

CHICAGO, IL “…one of the most outstanding young organist on the scene today. His unassuming manner and his sure and relaxed technique hide a fiery yet totally musical approach to organ playing.” - The Diapason

About the Organ

Old Cabell Hall on the Central Grounds of the University Virginia boasts the oldest surviving E. M. Skinner organ in original condition and in its original site. The three-manual instrument was installed less than a decade after the construction of Old Cabell Hall and was given a thorough renovation by the Thompson-Allen firm of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1983.

Organ Specifications

Generous support for this event has been provided by Katherine Brooks & the Brooks Fund.

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Maintained By McIntire Department of Music
Last Modified: Monday, 28-Jul-2008 23:29:57 EDT
112 Old Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Departmental Information: (434) 924-3052
Cabell Hall Box Office: (434) 924-3984