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MIC Alumna Wins Fulbright, named Top “20 under 30” by Diapason

Photo Credit:  Scott Sheetz


Congratulations to 24 year-old MIC alumna, Katie Minion, student of Jim Brown, who was selected as one of the Top “20 under 30” Class of 2015 by the national organ journal, The Diapason. Minion, the first MIC George Williams scholarship recipient was also awarded a Fulbright-Marillonet Fellowship to study in France.


Music Institute of Chicago alumna and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music student Kathryn (Katie) Minion has received a 2015–2016 Fulbright-Marillonet Fellowship, an award from the Marillonet Foundation and Fulbright France that goes to one artist or musician every year for research and study in France. She is a Jacobs Scholar and has earned her bachelor’s degree in organ performance major with a minor in French. She also was selected as one of the Top “20 under 30” Class of 2015 by the national organ journal, The Diapason.


Originally from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, Minion began her musical studies on violin at age four and began playing organ during high school, studying with the Music Institute’s Jim Brown as the first Music Institute George Williams scholarship recipient. She has won numerous awards and competitions, including first place in both the Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition in Organ Playing in 2012 and the Fox Valley chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ Regional Competition for Young Organists in 2013. In summer 2013, she placed second in the final round of the guild’s Region V young organists competition. Most recently, she was named an alternate in the 2014 Canadian International Organ Competition and competed as a finalist in the 2014 Fort Wayne National Organ Playing Competition.


Said Jim Brown, “Katie Minion is a remarkable organist. During her time with me as a student at the Music Institute, she exceeded all expectations in her technical and musical understanding of a varied and challenging repertoire. Her strong background as well in both piano and violin contributed to her extraordinary musicianship. Katie is quiet but most deliberate in her pursuits. I am exceedingly proud of her accomplishments!”


In addition to being a Jacobs Scholar, Minion was named a Founders Scholar during each of her four years at the Jacobs School of Music. She has performed around the country in a variety of venues and was featured on Chicago classical radio station WFMT’s “Introductions” program in October 2009. Recent performances have included recitals in New York City, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Loyola University in Chicago as well as appearances in France, Germany, and Austria. In her spare time, she can be found fencing or reading French literature.


How did you become interested in studying the organ? When did you start?

I come from a musical family—all five of my siblings and both my parents play instruments—so learning an instrument was just part of being in my family. I started on violin at age four and added piano in fifth grade. My mom was volunteer organist at our church while I was growing up, and I liked to watch her practice on our small, electronic organ at home. I was not very interested in playing organ, though, until I had to step in last minute to play the Mendelssohn Wedding March at a wedding. Although I managed to avoid using the pedals, I realized that it was fun to play the organ, and I liked the sounds I got from the instrument. Plus, it didn’t hurt that a lot of my friends came up to me afterwards and said how cool it was that I played organ. That was the summer before ninth grade. I started taking lessons on and off for a while, then decided that I’d like to study it more seriously, which is when I started organ lessons at the Music Institute.


How long did you study with Jim Brown at the Music Institute? What was most valuable about his instruction?

I studied organ with Jim Brown for three years. He gave me a solid technical foundation that helped immensely in my later studies, and he insisted on stylistic, musical playing in every piece I learned. Jim Brown encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity to study, perform, and compete. I am extremely thankful for the lessons I had with him at the Music Institute and his encouragement as I’ve continued my studies at Indiana University and now in Europe.


Anything else about your time with the Music Institute that was especially memorable or valuable?

I especially enjoyed playing the lovely Skinner organ at the Music Institute’s Evanston campus as it had just been restored when I started organ lessons. I remember making recordings, having lessons, and playing in recitals at Nichols Concert Hall. Receiving the George Williams Scholarship and meeting George Williams’ wife, Barbara Wright-Pryor, is another wonderful memory. Playing harpsichord in the Baroque orchestra class with Garry Clarke was also a special highlight of my time at the Music Institute. I enjoyed meeting many of the board members, Trustees, and friends of MIC—particularly Florence Boone and Alexandra Nichols—all of whom encouraged me in my studies.


What does it mean to you to have been named one of 20 under 30 by The Diapason?

I was honored and surprised to be chosen, along with several of my friends and colleagues. An award like this isn’t just a reward for past accomplishments: it means that others are looking to us to continue working to ensure that this field survives in the future. I’m excited that such great young musicians are equally as serious about continuing to grow these fields.


Please tell us about your Fulbright-Marillonet Fellowship. What are you doing with that fellowship?

This fall, I will be moving to Toulouse, France, to begin studies with Michel Bouvard in the Conservatoire. My main research project is a study of Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphonie Romane for organ, Op. 73, in conjunction with the organ at the Basilica of St. Sernin in Toulouse. Widor wrote this work specifically for the Basilica’s magnificent 1888 Cavaillé-Coll organ, drawing musical inspiration from the Romanesque architecture at St. Sernin. French organ music was closely linked to certain instruments and I will study Widor’s symphony and Baroque pieces on instruments built in the same respective eras in an effort to understand the connection between music, instrument, and acoustics.


What’s coming up next for you?

I’ll be back in Bloomington this summer for a few months where I’ll be substituting as church organist for one of the professors at IU while he recovers from surgery. I will also be learning the music for the September auditions at the Conservatoire in Toulouse as well as getting a head start on the pieces I’ll be working on during my Fulbright.



Family Fun with MIC's Duke It Out! Nutcracker

In-person tickets are sold out, but you can still enjoy the concert via livestream! Saturday, December 10 at 2 pm >>