Andrew E. Unsworth, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been a Tabernacle organist since July 2007. He was selected upon the retirement of John Longhurst. He performs in recitals regularly on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and accompanies the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir in all of their concerts, rehearsals, tours, and broadcasts. He is often featured as an organ soloist in the weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcast. He is the 13th full-time organist on Temple Square.
Andrew was born in 1970, and was raised in Potsdam, New York, in a family of musicians. He grew up listening to and playing along with organ records. He wasn’t tall enough to reach the pedals until he was age 14, so he concentrated on playing the piano until he could switch.
He received a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance and pedagogy from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. After completing his undergraduate studies at BYU, that he faced a bit of a career crisis. He commented:
As a kid I would watch the Tabernacle organists play. I envied the instrument and I dreamed of actually someday working here on Temple Square, but there are only three full-time organists here and I figured that’s not the kind of thing you can bank your life and career on.
Realizing that there might not be any future in a career in organ performance, he decided to attend graduate school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he earned a PhD in music history, and prepared to teach on the university level.
Andrew has served as music director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Durham, North Carolina, organist and assistant director of music at the Catholic Church’s Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, Utah, and assistant professor of music history and organ at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. During his five-year tenure as organist and assistant director of music at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, he learned how to accompany choirs and play for large services. About playing at the Cathedral he remarked:
I really enjoyed playing at Cathedral of the Madeleine. The instrument is very nice. The acoustics of the cathedral are in some ways ideal for organ. The music that the choir does—and that the organist is expected to play—is top rate; it’s amazing.
I had some spiritual experiences at the cathedral, but I always felt a little bit torn. . .. While I admire and respect [everyone I associated with at the cathedral], I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I wanted to be able to use my talents in the service of my own religion.
He is a member of the American Guild of Organists, and was a featured soloist at the Organ Historical Society and the American Guild of Organists in 2003. In June 2010, at the University of Utah, he took the guild’s two-day exams, which test an organist’s performance abilities in transposition, improvisation, and harmonization. The exams also feature written facets, such as analysis, composition, and ear training. He passed the exams and won the Associateship certificate, awarded to the organist with the highest exam score on his or her particular certificate, and the S. Lewis Elmer Award, awarded to the person with the highest score of any of the 82 test-takers.
Andrew served a full-time two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England London Mission. He married Alison Giauque, and they are the parents of five children.
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