2023 ATOS Young Organists Competition Winner – Ian Fraser

(from Left to Right) – Declan Poole, Jared Goldinger, Ian Fraser, Luke Staisiunas


an Fraser can be added to the ranks of big names in theatre organ. Congratulations! The recent ATOS Convention was in July located in the greater Chicago area. One of the events of the annual gathering is the ‘Young Theatre Organist Competition’.

It was Independence Day at the Tivoli Theatre in Downer’s Grove that Ian was finalist and competed with Jared Goldringer and Declan Poole. All three young artists have risen to the top of their still-youthful craft and all three put on superior performances with some of the characteristics that signify experience beyond their years. The judges had the difficult task of selecting the best among them.

Ian’s performance included: an opener featuring Cole Porter’s ‘Let’s Misbehave’, followed by ‘Love of My Life’ a Queen ballad, then a ‘Wizard of Oz’ medley, and ending with ‘Sunrise’ from the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Groffe’. Ian is largely self-taught and his arrangements were refreshing, different, and unlike anyone else’s style. The total performance brought him the Win !

GSTOS has been presenting winners and runners-up with prize money for the past 10 years and he received a $1000 check through the generosity of our members. The runners-up each received $500. Ian also was offered a concert date to perform for GSTOS with all expenses paid ‘to New Jersey’ said President Michael Cipolletti, playfully. The award has already offered Ian concert dates in other venues and for other Chapters showcasing that his talent and efforts are being recognized.

It is very hard to describe a theatre organ convention because it is like fireworks and ocean waves. You appreciate it at the moment but you can’t put it into words. It was a week-long experience. For starters, it was a chance to visit with people, some international friends, who we may see once a year. We shared stories, sometimes repetitions and reminiscence, about our quests to save theatre organs. It was an opportunity to learn more about technology to manage these tremendous instruments. Additionally, it was an opportunity to hear some of the finest talent on some of the finest organs in the world.

If we look back at the heyday of theatre organs, it is clear that there are only a small percentage of the original organs still playing. There are only a small number of movie palaces that house these organs. The upside is that the instruments have never been better. We have valued them and taken care of them. We’ve upgraded the operational systems but the true sound has not changed. There is nothing like the sound of air coming out of a pipe!

Today’s organists are wizards. Their skills outperform almost all of the old-time organists and they command the unit orchestra in such a way that it is not a piece of century-old music but a modern-day musical instrument.

We may obtain a highlights CD of the Convention and that will capture some of the listening ‘choices’ of the editor. Yet, only full immersion at the live experience in the stunning halls these instruments inhabit can provide the full experience.

As times move forward, we hope the annual event will continue as it provides musical respite though the glorious musical experience that an ATOS Convention can provide.