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Marilyn Mason

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Marilyn Mason
Background information
Born(1925-06-29)June 29, 1925
Alva, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 2019(2019-04-04) (aged 93)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
Occupation(s)University professor, teacher, soloist
Years active1947–2014

Marilyn Mason (June 29, 1925 – April 4, 2019) was an American concert organist, recording artist, and professor. Mason joined the staff of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1947, became chair of the organ department in 1962, and was named a professor in 1965.[1]

Life and career


Born in Alva, Oklahoma, Mason enrolled at the University of Michigan (U-M), where she earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in music. She was so proficient, she joined the U-M music faculty in 1947, even before she had graduated. Except for spending one summer in France studying organ with noted artists Maurice Duruflé and Nadia Boulanger, and some additional time earning the Doctor of Sacred Music degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Mason has spent almost her entire career at U-M.[2]

Her career as performer, lecturer, adjudicator, and teacher has taken her throughout the western world, at one point performing more than thirty recitals per year. In 1988, she was described as "among the important influences on the American organ scene in the second half of the 20th century" by the American Guild of Organists New York Chapter when she was named International Performer of the Year.[3] Over her career, she has also commissioned over 75 original works for the organ.[4] She was the featured guest organist of the 1971 and 1980 International Contemporary Organ Music Festivals held at the Hartt School of Music.[5] In 1985, a C. B. Fisk organ modeled on the eighteenth-century organs of Gottfried Silbermann was commissioned by the University of Michigan School of Music and named the Marilyn Mason Organ in her honor.[6] She was the first American woman organist to perform in Westminster Abbey, the first woman organist to play in Latin America, and the first American organist to perform in Egypt. Mason's teaching legacy was recognized in the fall of 2007 when the 47th Conference on Organ Music, which she founded in 1960, was dedicated to her in celebration of her 60th year of teaching. On the occasion of the 2009 GALA, sponsored by the national council of the American Guild of Organists, she was honored as the seventh in a series of organ teachers/performers who have reached the highest level of success in their profession.[7]

A biographical video retrospective, "A Life's Harmony", was created in 2007 to recognize Mason's exceptional teaching and mentorship.[8] She was the longest-serving faculty member at the University of Michigan, retiring after 67 years,[9] and was recognized in 2013 with a symposium in her honor titled "Teacher of Music, Teacher of Life".[10][11] Mason died on April 4, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aged 93.[12]


  1. ^ Gotwals, Vernon (2001). "Mason, Marilyn". In Sadie, Stanley (ed.). New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). Macmillan.
  2. ^ Carlyn, Marilou. "Music professor retires after record-breaking 67 years." The University Record. May 19, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2018.
  3. ^ "Marilyn Mason: 1988 International Performer of the Year". New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  4. ^ Pepple, Steve (September 17, 2007). "Music Professor's Career Spans 6 Decades". Ann Arbor News. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  5. ^ The Tenth Anniversary of the International Contemporary Organ Music Festival (PDF) (Music festival program notes). Hartt School of Music. 1980.
  6. ^ "Organs at Michigan: The Marilyn Mason Organ". University of Michigan. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  7. ^ School of Music. "Marilyn Mason". University of Michigan. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  8. ^ "A Life's Harmony: University of Michigan Organist Marilyn Mason". University of Michigan News Service. Retrieved March 3, 2014 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Carlin, Marilou. "Music professor retires after record-breaking 67 years". The University Record. The University of Michigan. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  10. ^ School of Music. "Teacher of Music, Teacher of Life". University of Michigan. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  11. ^ Sullivan, Maureen (October 18, 2007). "60 Years Behind the Keys". Michigan Daily. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  12. ^ "Marilyn Mason Obituary". Ann Arbor News. Retrieved April 5, 2019.