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The Los Angeles Chapter is one of the largest AGO chapters.  Chartered June 6, 1910, as the first AGO chapter in the area, we are now one of ten chapters in Southern California, and are part of the West Region.

Our chapter activities include concerts, educational events, social gatherings, and various other programs each year.  We also sponsor performance competitions for young organists and administer several scholarship funds. We publish a newsletter, LA Pipeline the AGO Calendar, which lists events for three chapters, and the annual AGO Southern California Directory, which lists members, officers, programs and other information from all ten chapters in the area.

After several years of program collaboration with the Pasadena Chapter, that chapter was merged into the Los Angeles Chapter in 1999.

Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Membership is open to all - professional organists and choir directors, students, and organ enthusiasts alike, regardless of musical ability or denominational affiliation.  For information about joining this chapter, see the Membership page.


A Brief History of the Los Angeles Chapter

Compiled by Mary Lee Mistretta, Dean 2000-2002, for the program book of the 2004 national convention. This version contains later updates.

In 1908 the organists of Los Angeles and district commenced the custom of meeting together once a month for dinner and friendly intercourse.  So begin the first minutes of The Association of Organists of Southern California, formed on December 7, 1908, with Ernest Douglas as the group's president.  Soon the Association chose to become a chapter of the American Guild of Organists, which had been formed in New York in 1896 and was interested in establishing new chapters across the country. The Los Angeles Chapter was chartered on June 6, 1910, and Ernest Douglas continued in his leadership role as its first dean.

The World War II years were interesting in Los Angeles. Irene Robertson became the first woman to serve as dean of the chapter in 1942.  The minutes from 1942-43 note that dinners could no longer take place each month because of food rationing.  Many members, including Rayner Brown and Frederick M. Barnes, were called to the armed forces, and the chapter contributed to buying an ambulance for the U.S. Army.  In spite of the war, it was a productive time for the chapter.  The membership roster included Roland Diggle, Clarence Mader, Richard Keys Biggs, Leslie Spelman, Donald Coats, William Blanchard, Alexander Schreiner and Roger Wagner.  The chapter sponsored innovative, inspiring programs presented by local and national recitalists and lecturers, from Lucien Cailliet, Alice Ehlers, Alexander Schreiner and Edward Shippen Barnes to David Craighead, E. Power Biggs, Virgil Fox, Carl Weinrich and Catharine Crozier. This tradition continues today.

In 1962, Southern California hosted its first AGO National Convention.  It was the "The International National," hosted jointly by the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena-Valley Chapters. This was the first time three chapters joined forces to co-sponsor a convention, and it was the first convention to feature international as well as national and local artists and lecturers.  Clarence Mader was the acclaimed program chairman and Gene Driscoll the general chairman of the convention.  One feature of this convention was "The Nothing Sacred Hour," an open forum with Harold Gleason, Mildred Andrews and Charles Gray as moderators.  The Diapason, August 1962, noted "Nothing Sacred will result in ever increasing participation of the entire membership in the decisions and the growth of our great national organization."  Following this convention, Gene Driscoll was elected councillor, the first to reside outside of New York.

Another feature of the 1962 convention was the AGO Prelude Book, believed to be the first book of compositions published for a national convention. Orpha Ochse reports that The California Organist, a monthly publication inspired by that volume and featuring new compositions by California composers, began publication shortly thereafter and was one of the projects made possible by the momentum of the convention, the cooperation of the three Los Angeles County chapters and the general enthusiasm of the time.  Rayner Brown spearheaded this project.

The 2004 National Convention in Los Angeles once again brought much enthusiasm and growth to the chapter. Tirelessly led by Robert Tall, Convention Coordinator, and Frederick Swann, Program Chair, as well as the entire Steering Committee and the working committees, we of the Los Angeles Chapter were delighted to welcome friends and colleagues from near and far and to share the bountiful musical life of Southern California.

Through the years other chapters were formed in the Los Angeles area.  Pasadena was the first to branch off and was chartered in 1936.  In 1999, after years of collaboration, the Los Angeles and Pasadena chapters merged. Ladd Thomas presided as dean and succeeded in bringing all aspects of the two chapters seamlessly together as one. There are now ten chapters in Southern California.

In recent years, the Los Angeles Chapter has recognized the contributions of the following distinguished individuals by naming them Honorary Life Members.  Vist the Life Members page for more information.

Sources: Los Angeles Chapter Historian William Henderson, Ladd Thomas, William Beck and Orpha Ochse

Historical Documents

Click for larger images

Past Deans

Los Angeles Chapter


1910-1912 Ernest Douglas*
1912-1914 Walter F. Skeele*
1914-1915 M. F. Mason*
1915-1917 P. Shaul Hallett*
1917-1918 Frank H. Colby*
1918-1919 Ernest Douglas*
1919-1920 Charles H. Demorest*
1920-1922 G. A. Mortimer*
1922-1924 Dudley Warner Fitch*
1924-1926 Roland Diggle*
1926-1927 Walter Hartley*
1927-1931 Joseph Clokey*
1931-1933 B. Ernest Ballard*
1933-1935 Clarence Mader*
1935-1937 Clarence Kellogg*
1937-1939 Alexander Schreiner*
1939-1941 William Ripley Dorr*
1941-1942 Richard Keys Biggs*
1942-1944 Irene Robertson*
1944-1946 Donald Coats*
1946-1948 Julia Howell Overshiner*
1948-1950 William G. Blanchard*
1950-1952 Anita Priest*
1952-1954 Lawrence Petran*
1954-1956 E. Robert Kursinski
1956-1958 Frank K. Owen*
1958-1961 Eva Mae Duit*
1961-1963 Rayner Brown*
1963-1964 William F. Connell, Jr.*
1964-1966 James H. Vail
1966-1968 Robert C. Bruce
1968-1970 Halstead McCormac*
1970-1972 Bob Mitchell*
1972-1974 Frank C. Brownstead
1974-1976 Thomas Harmon*
1976-1978 Xenia Anton Desby*
1978-1979 Elfrieda Baum
1979-1981 Harold A. Daugherty
, Jr.*
1981-1983 Janice Mitchell
1983-1985 Connie Grisham
1985-1986 Richard Kirtland
1986-1987 Carol Foster
1987-1988 Ruth Ann Carlock
1988-1989 Freddie Lu McGinnis
1989-1990 Thomas Neenan

1990-1991 Robert C. Tall
1991-1993 Harold A. Daugherty, Jr.*
1993-1996 Robert C. Bruce
1996-1998 Alice J. Rucker
1998-1999 Jelil Romano
2000 Ladd Thomas
2000-2002 Mary Lee Mistretta
2002-2004 William Charles Beck
2004-2006 Ty Woodward
2006-2008 Ronald S. Sinanian
2008-2008 Vincent Verga
2009-2009 Mary Lee Mistretta
2009-2011 Manuel J. Rosales
2011-2013 Zeljko Marasovich*
2013-2016 Phillip Smith

2016-2017 Ned Tipton

2017-2018 Philip Smith

2018-2022 Nelson Dodge

2022-2024 Kevin Cartwright

2024-Present Sean Coburn O'Neal (Interim)

Pasadena Chapter


The Pasadena Chapter was the first to grow out of the Los Angeles Chapter and was chartered in 1936. In 1999, the two chapters were combined again into one.

1936-1937 Edward P. Thompkins*
1937-1938 Loren W. Adair*
1938-1940 V. Gray Farrow*
1940-1942 Florence Jubb*
1942-1944 John Paul Clark*
1944-1945 Kathryn Knapp James*
1945-1947 Verdell Thompson*
1947-1949 Charles E. Anderson*
1949-1951 Ralph R. Travis*
1951-1953 David E. Craighead*
1953-1954 Ruby Kahn*
1954-1956 Ruth Carlmark Lyons*
1956-1958 Ronald Huntington*
1958-1960 Robert Prichard*
1960-1962 Martha Farr*
1962-1964 Ladd Thomas
1964-1966 Gaylord B. Carter*
1966-1968 Orpha Ochse
1968-1970 Charles Shaffer*
1970-1972 Garnet Mallery
1972-1974 Stennis Waldon
1974-1976 Richard W. Slater*
1976-1978 David Lennox Smith*
1978-1980 Pauline Chubbuck
1980-1982 Ruth Plummer*
1982-1985 David E. Fay*
1985-1986 James Walker
1986-1987 Craig Cansler
1987-1988 David McVey
1988-1989 Patricia Murphy Lamb
1989-1990 Frances Johnston
1990-1992 Philip A. Smith
1992-1994 Rebecca Davy
1994-1995 Frances Nobert
1995-1996 Daniel Kerr
1996-1997 Timothy Howard
1997-1998 Gregory Norton
1998-1999 Frances Nobert

* Deceased

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