Frederick Haas, a 1983 graduate of Oberlin Conservatory who has been a major voice in the international organ world throughout his life, was presented with the 2016 President’s Award by the American Guild of Organists. The announcement came July 11 at the group’s annual meeting in Houston.
Presented biennially in recognition of outstanding support of the art of the organ, the award for Haas was made “in gratitude for his inspired artistry, faithful support, and generous patronage of the King of Instruments,” according to AGO President John Walker. Founded in 1896, the organization serves the fields of organ and choral music and represents 16,000 members nationwide and abroad.
A pianist from age 6, Haas was a student of organ professor David Boe at Oberlin, in addition to studies with Fenner Douglass, David Craighead, Harald Vogel, and William Porter.
Haas has lived and performed throughout the Philadelphia area his entire life, and he serves as assistant grand court organist at Macy’s Center City, where he performs weekly on the store’s Wanamaker organ. He is the founder of the Historic Organ Trust; a board member of the Historic Organ Restoration Committee at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.; and he was the lead donor of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ—the largest mechanical pipe organ in any U.S. concert venue—in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in his hometown.
Also in the summer of 2016, Haas cochaired the Organ Historical Society’s national convention in Philadelphia. There, he was honored in part for his leading role in the donation of his family’s 36-room Pennsylvania estate to the OHS. Haas’ family also earned a 2015 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in recognition of its long history of generosity.
For nearly two decades, Haas has been a dogged advocate for the restoration and preservation of American pipe organs. “It was a very big moment,” he says of the AGO honor. “Here I am with all these famous organ builders from the world over, and I was just incredibly honored and incredibly moved.
“I hope that my efforts and my interest in this area can play a part in the resurgence of interest in American pipe organs, and I hope my work can inspire others to help do the work that I'm doing, because I can't do it alone. Once these treasures are lost or torn down, they're gone.”
In 2015, Haas returned to his alma mater to celebrate the dedication of an organ donated to Oberlin by his mentor, David Boe. In 2011, Haas’ family established the David S. Boe Chair in Organ Studies at Oberlin.
“I owe so much of whatever success or musicality in life I have to him,” he says of Boe. “It was the least I could do to honor David and all that he's done for Oberlin.”