Katelyn Emerson ’15 has received a Fulbright grant to study organ and harpsichord in Toulouse, France, also known as “the paradise of organs,” this coming year.
A French and organ performance double-degree student, Emerson says her tandem studies helped make her a more competitive Fulbright applicant. “Organ and French work really well together, especially since the main kinds of music that one plays on the organ are either German or French,” she says. “And I’m a Francophile, so playing French music on the instruments really is a learning experience in and of itself.”
Emerson has been working toward her Fulbright since studying with Olivier Latry, a visiting professor and organist of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which sparked her interest in studying organ overseas. “This is what I’ve been aiming for for the past five years. It’s what I need to do and what I want to be doing.” Emerson says she learned she had received a Fulbright while she was in Boston preparing for a performance. Because neither of her parents answered the phone, “the first person who found out was the secretary of the church. I had to tell somebody.”
She plans to take advantage of her postgraduate life at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Toulouse by studying organ with Michel Bouvard, an organ professor and organist of the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, and Jan WIllem Jansen, organist and artistic director of the Festival International Toulouse les Orgues. She will also study fortepiano and harpsichord with organist Yasuko Uyama-Bouvard. She will also play a series of concerts in Russia in November, and hopes to have the chance to record a CD with the assistance of Marie-Louise Langlais, wife of Jean Langlais, the late French organist and composer. “Heaven forbid I get bored,” Emerson says, laughing.
As the fourth-largest city in France, Emerson says Toulouse has a metropolitan feeling but easy access to the countryside. “I want to go sit in cafes, drink coffee, and people watch,” she says.
After completing her Fulbright, Emerson says she hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to perform, teach, and work in a church. She plans to attend Yale or Rice University for graduate school to study organ church music. Before beginning her Fulbright in the fall, Emerson will be a fellow at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst’s Conducting Institute 2015 to learn more about choral conducting. She will also present a workshop at the American Guild of Organist’s Northeast Regional Convention in New Haven and will teach at the Pipe Organ Encounter in Brooklyn. “I’m trying to stay well-rounded while specializing, which is an interesting middle line to walk.”