Roberta Bitgood

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Roberta Bitgood

Roberta Bitgood Wiersma (15 January 1908 – 15 April 2007) was an American organist, choir director and composer. She was a pioneer of 20th-century American church music and the first woman to serve as national president of the American Guild of Organists.[1]


Roberta Bitgood was born in New London, Connecticut, of parents Grace Robinson Prentis and Robert A.T. Bitgood. She showed an early talent for music and started violin lessons at the age five. She studied at the Williams Memorial Institute from 1920–24 and began performing in local churches and school orchestras. Bitgood graduated from the Connecticut College for Women and continued her studies in New York at the Guilmant Organ School with William C. Carl, where she graduated in 1930. She went on to receive a master's degree in music education from Teacher's College at Columbia University in 1932 and a master's and doctoral degree in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary after studying with Clarence Dickinson and David Williams in 1935 and 1945.[2]

Bitgood taught in New Jersey at the Bloomfield College and Seminary. She married and had a daughter Grace, and worked as an organist in New York, New Jersey, California and Michigan.[3] In 1975 she was elected president of the American Guild of Organists. After retiring in 1976, Bitgood returned to Connecticut, where she continued to work as an organist in local churches and synagogues.

The Roberta Bitgood Organ Scholarship was created in 1993 by the American Guild of Organists, New London County Chapter.[4] Bitgood received the William C. Carl Medal in 1930 and the Connecticut College Medal in 1974. She died in New London, Connecticut.[5]


Bitgood was known for sacred music, anthems, cantatas and hymns. Selected works include:

  • The Greatest Of These Is Love
  • God Himself Is With Us
  • Let us Witness Together for SATB choir
  • Organ Album, collection (1991)[6]

Her works have been recorded and issued on media, including:

  • Women Composer For Organ-Music Spanning Five Centuries Audio CD (October 24, 2006) Gasparo Records, ASIN: B000025YJO
  • Music She Wrote Audio CD (July 31, 2001) Raven Records, ASIN: B00005NF8G


  1. ^ The American organist: Volume 42. American Guild of Organists, Royal Canadian College of Organists, Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America. 2008. 
  2. ^ "Obituaries:Roberta Bitgood". The Tracker. 2007. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "A Life in 20th-Century Church Music". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "History of the Roberta Bitgood Organ Scholarship". 
  5. ^ Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Ammer, Christine (2001). Unsung: a history of women in American music. 

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