The only organist ever to have won a GRAMMY Award (for Messiaen’s “Livre du Saint-Sacrement”), Paul Jacobs transfixes audiences, colleagues and critics alike with imaginative interpretations and charismatic stage presence. Hailed as “one of the major musicians of our time” by the New Yorker’s Alex Ross, Mr. Jacobs has been an important influence in the revival of symphonic works featuring the organ, drawing from his deep knowledge of western music to enlighten listeners, and is a true innovator in the advocacy of organ repertoire, performing and encouraging the composition of new works that feature the organ.
Paul Jacobs made his mark from a young age with landmark performances of the complete works for solo organ by J.S. Bach and Messiaen, making musical history at the age of 23 when he played Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death.
A fierce advocate of new music, Jacobs has premiered works by Christopher Rouse, Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Michael Daugherty, Wayne Oquin, Stephen Paulus, and Christopher Theofanidis, among others. He is a vocal proponent of the redeeming nature of traditional and contemporary classical music in his roles as Chair of the Organ Department at The Juilliard School and Director of the Organ Institute at the Oregon Bach Festival.
Paul Jacobs begins his 2017/18 season with a concert at the Toledo Museum of Art performing Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ and Percussion with Third Coast Percussion in a centennial celebration of Lou Harrison, followed by Shanghai, China where he is President of the Jury of the first Shanghai International Organ Competition, an especially important milestone in the development of organ playing in Asia. He will also be presented in recital at the Oriental Arts Center. He returns twice to the Philadelphia Orchestra, first for Wayne Oquin’s “Resilience” which was written for Paul Jacobs and later for James MacMillan’s organ concerto, “A Scotch Bestiary”. He also appears twice with the Cleveland Orchestra, in the fall with Giancarlo Guerrero conducting Stephen Paulus’s Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra and returns in the spring for their week-long festival celebrating Tristan and Isolde. He is organ soloist in Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony with the Chicago Symphony and the Utah Symphony and presents solo recitals in San Francisco at Davies Symphony Hall, in Sacramento, Tampa, Houston, Baylor University and Pittsburgh among others.
In the 2016/17 season Paul Jacobs played world premiere performances of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto, dedicated to him in 2014, with three commissioning partners, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the National Symphony conducted by Gustavo Gimeno and the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson.
He appears frequently in New York, and has been presented twice at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, the first time at the inaugural 2010 Festival performing J.S. Bach’s monumental Clavier-Ubung III and the 2015 edition with world-renowned soprano Christine Brewer in a program of their Naxos release, “Divine Redeemer” He and Ms. Brewer also presented their duo program on tour to Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica and Spivey Hall in Atlanta.
With the Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero conducting, he performed and recorded Michael Daugherty’s Once Upon a Castle, included on the Naxos disc of works by Daugherty, Tales of Hemingway, awarded the 2016 GRAMMY for Best Classical Compendium.
In addition to the above, Paul Jacobs is a frequent concerto and recital soloist featuring the concert organs of the San Francisco Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Lexington Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, the Seattle Symphony and the Toledo Symphony.
Prodigiously talented from his earliest years, at 15 young Jacobs was appointed head organist of a parish of 3,500 in his hometown, Washington, Pennsylvania. He has also performed the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen in marathon performances throughout North America, and recently reached the milestone of having performed in each of the fifty United States. In addition to his recordings of Messiaen and Daugherty on Naxos, Mr. Jacobs has recorded organ concerti by Lou Harrison and Aaron Copland with the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas on the orchestra’s own label, SFS Media.
Mr. Jacobs studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, double-majoring with John Weaver for organ and Lionel Party for harpsichord, and at Yale University with Thomas Murray. He joined the faculty of The Juilliard School in 2003, and was named chairman of the organ department in 2004, one of the youngest faculty appointees in the school’s history. He received Juilliard’s prestigious William Schuman Scholar’s Chair in 2007 and an honorary Doctor of Music from Washington and Jefferson College in 2017.
In addition to his concert and teaching appearances, Mr. Jacobs is a frequent performer at festivals across the world, and has appeared on American Public Media’s Performance Today, Pipedreams, and Saint Paul Sunday, as well as NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC-TV’s World News Tonight, and BBC Radio 3.