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Samuel Backman receives 2010 Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship

Posted Dec 8, 2010

Samuel Backman’s earliest memories of church are marked by the awe and intrigue inspired by the hymns, anthems, and organ voluntaries he heard. Those memories also inspired Backman to become an organist.  He is the 2010 winner of the Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship for organists under 30 who are preparing to become church musicians.   

Encouraging young organists

The Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship was established by Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1992 to honor their Christian witness and contributions to the life of that congregation. It is administered by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where Paul Manz was Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor of Church Music and artist-in-residence from 1983 until his retirement in 1992.  The $3,000 annual scholarship is designed to encourage young organ students as they study for careers as church musicians.

Applicants for the 2010 scholarship submitted recordings of themselves playing a major prelude and fugue of J.S. Bach; a shorter Romantic work from Vierne, Dupre, Langlai, Widor or Peeters; a short contemporary American work; and improvisations and accompaniment for the hymn tune Westminster Abbey.  Backman performed the Bach Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541; the Dupre Prelude and Fugue in F minor, op. 7; a world premier recording of Justin Henry Rubin’s Variations super Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland; and the Westminster Abbey improvisations and accompaniment.

Sharing fine music with all of God’s people

Samuel Backman began volunteering as an organist in his rural Wisconsin parish when he was eleven years old. He took charge of the parish’s music program when he was in high school. He began at St. Olaf College with the intention of studying music composition, but soon came under the tutelage of John Ferguson, Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson Professor of Church Music, who calls Backman “one of the finest students I have ever had the privilege of teaching.”

Backman’s recital performances while at St. Olaf were hailed as some of the finest the music faculty had ever heard. He graduated with a degree in sacred music and performance. He currently attends the Yale Institute of Sacred Music where he is a student of Martin D. Jean, Director, Professor of Organ, Professor in the Practice of Sacred Music.

In his application statement, Backman says, “Fine music should not merely be experienced by the connoisseurs of symphonic and opera music, but by all God’s people. . .I believe that a successful church musician must be an effective cultural leader and entrepreneur with an inquiring mind and burning desire to serve people and glorify God.”

The 2011 Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship

Requirements for the 2011 Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship will be available in early March 2011. The application deadline is June 15, 2011. Watch the LSTC website for details and to download the application form.


Patti DeBias
Assistant to the President

Jan Boden
Director of Communications

The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, forms visionary leaders who bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. It provides high-quality seminary and graduate education for women and men in a community that is global, multicultural, ecumenical, interfaith, and urban. LSTC faculty provides resources for the whole church through their research, writing, and workshops and presentations around the world. Graduates serve in every type of ministry setting as they work to realize the gospel vision of peace and justice.

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