Short History of the Knoxville Chapter of the AGO 1946 - 2002

by Alfred E. Lunsford
1918 - 2003


In 1946, a small group of enthusiastic organists met in the Coffee Shop of the Farragut Hotel in downtown Knoxville to discuss the establishment of a Knoxville Chapter of the national organization.  The national president, Mr. S. Lewis Elmer, was present to answer questions and to assist with arrangements. As a result, the Knoxville Chapter was chartered that year... 1946

William G. Barnes served as Dean until an election of officers was subsequently held.

The first elected officers for the Knoxville Chapter were:

  • Dean: Mr. Earl Jones
  • Sub-Dean: John W. Jones
  • Secretary: Elizabeth Platt
  • Treasurer: William Jacobs

Other Charter Members were:

Mrs. W. Cecil Anderson, Miss Katharine C. Davies, Mrs. Carlotta M. Eppes, William Curtis Hughes, Mrs. Vera King Johnson, Alfred E. Lunsford, Miss Garnet Manges, Mrs. R.G. Sawyer, Mrs. Harry (Bess) Shugart and Klaus Speer.


The Knoxville Chapter has hosted three regional conventions: 1957, 1973, and 1999.  The Region IV Convention in 1999 was the second largest regional convention of that year with 398 attendees from 17 states and Antiqua.

The First Convention

By 1957, the chapter had grown in numbers and vitality and it was decided to host a regional convention, a major undertaking for a fledgling chapter. At that time, the region was known as The Southern Region, and contained 17 Chapters. Mr. Jack Edwin Rogers was the State Chairman and Miss Jane Wauford was the Dean of the Knoxville Chapter. Mr. Alfred Lunsford and Mrs. Claudia Carter served as co-chairpersons of the convention. Organ workshops were given by Oswald G. Ragatz, Associate Professor of Organ at Indian University. Choral Techniques workshops were given by Paul J. Christiansen, Chairman of the Department of Music at Concordia College. A class on Junior Choir Methods was taught by Harry H. Harter, Assistant Professor of Music at Maryville College. Edward H. Hamilton taught a class on Youth Choir Rehearsals.

Outstanding organ recitals were given by Oswald Ragatz at St. John's Episcopal Church. Emily Cooper, winner of the National Organ Playing Contest in New York City in 1956, performed at New Providence Presbyterian church in Maryville, and John Weaver played at Bell Avenue Baptist Church. A religious Drama, Unto Thy Kingdom, was presented by the Religious Drama Club of the First Methodist Church and an Organ playing contest was held at First Baptist Church. Conventioneers were treated to a tour of the Great Smoky Mountains and were treated to an evening at the Tennessee Theatre for the silent movie, Night Owl's Nocturne, with Charles Hunnicutt playing the "Great" Wurlitzer Organ.

The Second Convention

Sixteen years later, the Knoxville Chapter hosted its second regional convention in June, 1973 with headquarters at the newly opened, architecturally magnificent Hyatt Hotel which someone humorously said looked like "the box the Norris Dam had come in!" Indeed it was, and is, an imposing structure; this convention was the first to be held at this new venue.

Major participants and performers included such notables as Robert Noehren, Clark Kelly, Cherry Rhodes, Harry Huff, the 1971 Southern Regional Competition winner, Ladd Thomas and others. The convention ended with a tour of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, with a stop at the home of Iris and Roy Newman for Refreshments. Once again, Knoxville had hosted a very successful convention.

Fiftieth Anniversary

In 1996, the Knoxville Chapter began a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of its founding and charter. Coincidently, the National Organization was celebrating its 100th anniversary so, needless to say, this was an outstanding and memorable year for the organ community!

The fiftieth Anniversary committee planned several events throughout this program year including a series of articles that appeared  in its monthly newsletter, The Tracker, written by charter member Alfred E. Lunsford. This series of articles revealed an interesting and detailed history of the Knoxville Chapter, the effects of growth in the area on area churches, and, certainly, growth in the Knoxville Chapter. Sunday April 14, 1996 was declared National Guild Centennial Sunday and on this date, the Knoxville Chapter officially celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. On this Sunday, too, was the Worlds Largest Organ Recital, in which many chapters across the nation participated. The Knoxville Chapter held its recital at Second Presbyterian Church followed by a formal reception.

Chapter member, James Pethel was commissioned to compose an organ composition which was played on this program. His work, based on the hymn-tune Engelberg, was premiered, with the congregation singing the text to this tune, When In Our Music God Is Glorified.

The Annual Church Music Workshop

The Knoxville chapter's Church Music Workshop was established in 1971 under the leadership of John Brock, professor of music and organ at the University of Tennessee. With the exception of 1998 and 1999, when the Knoxville AGO was planning and hosting the Region IV Convention, the CMW was held every year between 1971 and 2006 in the late winter or early spring. This two-day conference focused on choral and organ techniques and performance in workshops led by noted clinicians. An average of 70 church musicians attended the CMW every year and come from a 150-mile radius around Knoxville. Additional information on the Church Music Workshops can be found below.

Growth and Activity

Chartered with 16 members in 1946, the Knoxville Chapter has grown to 123 members in 2001-2002. Regular meetings and programs are usually held on the first Monday of every month, though this varies from time to time.  These programs are very diversified and are held at churches throughout the Greater Knoxville area. Please click here to view our current calendar.

A Unique Feature

The Knoxville Chapter is believed to be the first chapter of the AGO to have founded a library that is open to the public. This library, The Shugart Memorial Library, was designed as a memorial to Elizabeth Harrill Shugart, long time organist/director at Second Presbyterian Church where the library is housed. Mrs. Shugart was charter member of this chapter and served as Dean and in other offices throughout her tenure in the Chapter.


The germ of an idea to sponsor and host a two-day Church Music Workshop was presented to the Knoxville Chapter by John Brock, professor of Music and Organ at the University of Tennessee. The first CMW was held in 1971 and was a huge success. Attended by church musicians from about a 150-mile radius around Knoxville, the CMW was presented yet a second year and was once again a huge success. Between 1971 and 2006, the Knoxville AGO sponsored 34 Church Music Workshops. For all of these years, John Brock chaired the Steering Committee, which brought in organ and choral clinicians of note nationwide.

The following is a list of the clinicians of our Church Music Workshops since its inception:

1971 Mildred Andrews, John Brock, William Gray
1972 Grigg Fountain
1973 Robert Anderson, Phillip Dietterich
1974 Marilyn Mason, Donald Neuen, Carl Perry
1975 Arthur Poister, Will Headlee, Donald Neuen, John Mullen
1976 Gerre Hancock, Donald Plott, Helen Kemp
1977 Frederick Swann, Dale Wood
1978 Paul Manz, Erik Routley
1979 Wilma Jensen, Grigg Fountain
1980 Alice Parker, Stephen Ortlip, Schuyler Robinson
1981 Warren Hutton, Janet Yamron
1982 Robert Glasgow, Joseph Schreiber
1983 Wolfgang Rubsam, Ronald A. Nelson
1984 Larry Smith, Daniel Pinkham
1985 Russell Saunders, James R. Rogers, Dolly Hough
1986 Robert Clark, Michael Kemp
1987 John Ferguson, W. Thomas Smith
1988 Roberta Gary, Ronald Arnatt
1989 John Weaver, Austin Lovelace
1990 Larry Smith, Ronald J. Jenkins
1991 David Dahl, John Bertalot
1992 John David Peterson, Monte Atkinson
1993 David Craighead, Marilyn Gonzalez
1994 David Hurd, Bruce Neswick
1995 Mary Ann Dodd, James M. Jordan
1996 Michael Corzine, Larry L. Fleming, Brant S. Copeland
1997 Charles Tompkins, Ann Howard Jones
1998 Delbert Disselhorst, James Litton
2001 David Higgs, Sigrid Johnson
2002 Peter Sykes, Sandra Willetts
2003 Michael Burkhardt, Norman MacKenzie
2004 David Arcus, Rob Taylor
2005 Stephen Hamilton, Leo Nestor
2006 Christa Rakich, Ben Hutto


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