Ball State University’s School of Music Hosts First Sursa American Organ Competition

The Sursa Family Concert Organ. Photo provided.The Sursa Family Concert Organ. Photo provided.

By: Ball State University Divison of Strategic Communications–

MUNCIE, Indiana — Raúl Prieto Ramírez believes not enough people know about Ball State’s organ major. Or that Ball State’s Sursa Performance Hall is home to one of Indiana’s only concert hall organs, which this year celebrates its 10th year gracing the stage of the 600-seat venue.

That’s why the instructor and internationally acclaimed concert organist has worked tirelessly in recent months planning the School of Music’s first Sursa American Organ Competition.

“This competition is a chance for people to hear some of the most brilliant organists in the country perform on this world-class instrument,” said Ramírez, a Spanish native who performs concerts at major festivals and concert halls around the globe. “It’s also one of the best ways we have to promote this jewel we hold for the musical life in the state of Indiana.”

The “jewel” Ramírez is talking about is the Sursa Family Concert Organ, a gift to the university by Muncie residents David and Mary Jane Sursa, whose generosity provided funding for both Sursa Hall—a cornerstone of the university’s Music Instruction Building—and the 50-stop pipe organ designed and built by Goulding & Wood Co.

The Sursa Family Concert Organ. Photo provided.

The Sursa Family Concert Organ. Photo provided.

Competition a partnership with Moscow Conservatory

Ramírez’s introduction to Ball State was as a guest artist whose international concert schedule first brought him to Sursa Hall years ago. He fell in love in with the Sursa Family Concert Organ the minute he sat in front of it on stage.

“With an instrument like this, it’s not difficult to become emotionally attached,” he said, noting its allure was a key factor to his decision to begin teaching here in 2012. Now Ramírez hopes the nine organists coming to Muncie this week will be equally impressed by the instrument and well-tuned venue.

The winner and runner-up of the Sursa competition gains automatic acceptance into the second round of the Moscow Conservatory’s IV International A.F. Goedicke Organ Competition. Ball State’s partnership with the world-famous conservatory was established to offer additional support for North and South American organists wishing to participate.

Ball State establishes itself as destination site

Robert Kvam, dean of the College of Fine Arts, expects the Sursa competition to be an invigorating event for the university community. “Coming on the heels of our hosting the preliminary round of the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition last November, Ball State is quickly establishing itself as a major site in the world of keyboard competitions.”

He credits Ramírez as the driving force behind creation of the Sursa competition. “He’s passionate about his students, our facilities, and the need to showcase our organ in such a glorious space as Sursa Performance Hall. It’s our hope this becomes an annual event.”

John Emert, associate dean of the Honors College and professor of mathematical sciences, chairs Muncie’s chapter of the American Guild of Organists, a national organization that promotes organ awareness and education in the U.S.

He said organists in this year’s Sursa competition are going to love performing their repertoire—hourlong pieces from composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn—on the Sursa organ. “It’s as great an opportunity for them, as it is for us.”

 All events are in Sursa Hall.


7:30 p.m.: Opening recital by Ball State’s organist-in-residence, Raúl Prieto Ramírez. Free and open to the public.

Thursday and Friday

9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Semifinal rounds for the nine organists invited to the competition. Free and open to the public.


9:45 a.m.-6 p.m.: Top five finalists (as selected by four-member jury of concert performers, including Ramírez) to play in final round of competition. Concertgoers will be asked to vote for recipient of a $500 audience prize before the overall winner of the competition is named at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.


5 p.m.: Prizewinners’ gala concert will feature performance from the winner, who receives a cash prize from the Sursa family. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from the Emens box office at 765-285-1539 on Sunday.