John R. Near, William Martin and Mina Merrill Prindle Professor of Fine Arts and College Organist, has been on the faculty since 1985. He has a BA from Principia College, an MMus with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and a DMA from Boston University. Before joining the Principia College faculty, Dr. Near was Associate Organist of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, from 1972 until 1981. A double CD of organ music recorded on the great Aeolian-Skinner organ in The Mother Church Extension while Dr. Near was Associate Organist is issued on the Raven label. His solo setting of Mary Baker Eddy’s poem, Christmas Morn, is published by The Christian Science Publishing Society and recorded on the album “Exalt the Lord.”
Dr. Near’s 1984 doctoral dissertation, “The Life and Work of Charles-Marie Widor,” was the first complete posthumous biography of this important French composer. His publications include a ten-volume annotated edition of the Symphonies for Organ by Widor (A-R Editions, Madison, WI); The American Organist has called it “the definitive edition . . . a must for every music library” and “one of the most significant contributions to the scholarship of organ music of the 1990s.” Dr. Near also prepared the first publication of Widor’s Symphonie for Organ and Orchestra, opus 42[a]. At the 2002 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Philadelphia, he lectured on the work, and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered the new edition before an audience of 2400 organists.
In 2002, as the first recipient of the Dorothy D. Moller Research Fellowship for Advanced Study, Dr. Near began writing the definitive biography of Widor. Widor: A Life beyond the Toccata was published in 2011 by the University of Rochester Press as part of its distinguished Eastman Studies in Music series. Dr. Near was interviewed about the book on the BBC’s “Music Matters” program, and the book won the 2012 John Ogasapian Book Award, an annual prize given by the Organ Historical Society for “a distinguished work of original scholarship.” Dr. Near has written on Widor for The American Organist, and has presented scholarly papers at Göteborg, Sweden, the University of Iowa, Yale University, the New England Conservatory of Music (in conjunction with the Westfield Center), Rice University, Princeton University, Oberlin College, the University of Michigan, and the 2008 national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Minneapolis. He has also performed a recital of Widor’s organ music on the historic 102-stop Cavaillé-Coll organ of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, where Widor was organist from 1870–1934. Dr. Near has contributed a chapter on Widor in Le Grand Orgue de Saint-Sulpice et ses Organistes, an article in the Dictionnaire de la musique en France au XIXème siècle, and he has been a book reviewer for Notes, the quarterly journal of the Music Library Association.
He contributed an entry on the history of music in the Christian Science Church to the Grove Dictionary of American Music, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2013. As an organ consultant, he has overseen the rebuilding of fine historic instruments and designed new organs, including the 1992 Martin Ott organ in the Principia College Chapel and the 2006 Casavant Frères organ in Principia’s Cox Auditorium. Dr. Near plays for services and the weekly hymn sings sponsored by the Christian Science Organization at Principia College. He has co-directed eight Principia Abroad programs, to Austria, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany (including the former East Germany), Holland, Hungary, Italy, and Switzerland. He teaches organ, music history, and specialized courses in symphonic music and opera history. He also serves as one of the organists of First Church of Christ, Scientist, St. Louis. Outside the classical organ field, Dr. Near is an ardent theatre organ enthusiast, having owned a 1926, 3-manual, 17-rank Barton theatre organ that he donated to the Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald, Georgia in 2009.
Dr. Near is a member of: