As part of the Diocese of Orange’s celebration of the restored 17,000-pipe Hazel Wright Organ, the Year of Hazel concert series at Christ Cathedral continues on May 31 with the Cathedral’s four Organ Scholars performing on the famed instrument.
Ethan Chow, André Lombardi, Alyce Reynaud and Hubert Tran have all trained under Cathedral Organist and Head of Music Ministry David Ball and are excited to share their passion and talents for sacred music later this month.
The concert also serves as a farewell of sorts for the budding musicians, who were all founding members of the Diocesan Children’s Choir in 2016 and began studying with Ball the following year.
This fall, all four are headed off to college with an excellent foundation of music education, thanks to their participation in the Diocese’s Organ Scholars Program.
The program, which exists at many major cathedrals around the world, trains new generations into the world of organ music and passes along its historic traditions. Through private lessons and mentorships, the program immerses participants in all aspects of a cathedral music ministry so they can get a glimpse into its day-to-day life.
Ball himself is familiar with the program. At age 14, he was an Organ Scholar at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. “My background started out as one of these kids, and that’s how I caught the bug and was inspired to dedicate my life to this,” said Ball.
Chow, a senior at Valencia High School in Placentia, had a background in piano, but after being asked by Ball to learn the organ, he found himself immediately drawn to the instrument. Chow is the winner of this year’s prestigious Pogorzelski Yankee Memorial Scholarship from the American Guild of Organists.
Chow will be attending Ball’s alma mater, The Juilliard School, where he will pursue a degree in organ performance.
“I was really drawn to the organ because of its diversity in so many instruments,” said Chow. “I never thought I’d be a person to ever go that route … but I found that music was actually my true passion.”
Lombardi once posed for a photo as a kindergartener with the organist at his elementary school, Our Lady Queen of Angels. Little did he realize that someday he would learn to play the organ.
After he graduates from Beckman High School in Irvine this spring, he heads to Rice University to pursue a dual degree in organ performance and health sciences. Lombardi said his appreciation for the organ stems from the unique cross-section it provides. He feels honored to bring the instrument into the spotlight for young people.
“This concert is significant because we are the younger generation,” he said. “It’s very special because it’s like a capstone to all of the Cathedral events, rehearsals and endless practice.”
In addition to being an Organ Scholar, Alyce Reynaud is also a Choral Scholar and music administrative intern at Christ Cathedral. She took advantage of having the iconic Hazel Wright Organ in her backyard and paired learning the organ with her choral studies. A 2021 graduate from Foothill High School in North Tustin, she will be attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in the school’s early music voice performance program.
“David (Ball) helped me find my passion for music,” said Reynaud. “I didn’t know whether I wanted to do biological sciences or music. Having David here to help me along by showing me what music could be — that was just instrumental.”
When Tran, a senior at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, was younger, he viewed training in music as a form of punishment. But learning the organ under Ball and seeing Ball’s love for the instrument allowed Tran to view music in a new light.
He will be attending Yale University and double majoring in music and neuroscience, with the goal of continuing to train as an organist. The aspect of service that accompanies being a church musician is especially important to Tran.
“We’re part of people’s lives, during the most difficult parts and the happiest parts,” he said. “I never expected to learn from music again, but I fell in love with it so much that I realized it’s going to be a huge part of my life.”
The scholars acknowledge not only the deep bond of friendship they have developed through the Organ Scholars Program, but also the diversity they represent — from Asian to French, Italian and Chilean. Above all, they encourage other young musicians to consider the program, as it has been nothing short of life-changing for each of them.
“Cathedrals are special places, and they are centers of Catholic music,” said Ball. “This is where all of the best sacred music happens. For these kids, it makes it a part of who they are and their identity. These are the memories they will have forever.”
The May 31 Organ Scholars concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Cathedral, 13280 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove. Tickets are $10. For more information and to buy tickets, visit ChristCathedralMusic.org.