When the Eastman School of Music opened its doors in 1921, it housed the largest and most lavish organ collection in the nation, befitting the interests of its founder, George Eastman. Mr. Eastman provided the School with opulent facilities and stellar faculty, creating an expansive vision for organ art and education in the 20th century. Over the years, the Eastman School has built on this vision by offering one of the most distinguished organ programs in the world. In keeping with this tradition of excellence, the Eastman School of Music has embarked on a long-range plan, the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI), that will extend George Eastman’s vision into the 21st century.
With the aim of making Rochester a global center for organ performance, research, building, and preservation, the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative of the Eastman School of Music is assembling a collection of new and historic organs unparalleled in North America. An incomparable teaching resource, this collection offers access to organs of diverse styles and traditions to talented young musicians from around the world. Tourists, scholars, and music lovers are drawn to Rochester to hear the varied sounds of these extraordinary instruments.
In its short twelve year history, EROI has completed an initial phase which has included the placement of four magnificent instruments in downtown Rochester. An historic Italian Baroque organ was installed in the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery in 2005. The Craighead-Saunders organ, closely modeled after a Lithuanian organ built by Casparini in 1776, was constructed and installed in Christ Church in 2008, in cooperation with the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. Eastman also owns two vintage 19th century American instruments, an 1898 Hook and Hastings Organ housed in St. Mary’s Church, and an 1893 Hook and Hastings Organ restored and installed in the choir chamber of Christ Church in the summer of 2012. The EROI Project continues to work towards expanding the collection of high-quality organs in the Rochester area. The next phase of the project includes the construction of a new French Symphonic Organ modeled on Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s late 19th century instruments, renovation of the historic E.M. Skinner organ housed in the Eastman School’s Kilbourn Hall, and the restoration and replacement of the School’s fourteen practice organs.
A central component of the EROI Project is outreach and education. Each autumn, EROI presents the EROI Festival, an international academic conference that features the collection of instruments in Rochester. The event has grown from humble beginnings into one of the premier organ conferences in the world. In addition, EROI sponsors Eastman student community concerts at local churches throughout the academic year.