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PLU receives a $2 million gift for music studies from organ builder Paul Fritts

PLU receives a $2 million gift for music studies from organ builder Paul Fritts

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Associate Professor of Music - with a student playing on the organ.
November 16, 2021
By Veronica Craker
PLU Marketing & Communications

Pacific Lutheran University is proud to announce the establishment of the Paul Fritts Endowed Chair in Organ Studies and Performance, thanks to the generosity of longtime university supporter Paul Fritts, owner and founder of Paul Fritts & Co. Organ Builders. Fritts has pledged $2 million to support and enhance the Department of Music.

“This endowed chair represents a significant commitment to both organ performance and instruction,” Brian Galante, Chair of the Department of Music, said. “This helps us continue to attract incredible faculty who are not only first-rate performers, but also engaging and inspiring teachers. Students—majors and non-majors alike—will have the opportunity to experience the breadth and beauty of the organ repertoire.”

In addition to creating the first endowed chair for the Department of Music, the fund will support programming that uplifts and enhances rich musical traditions at PLU, including organ, choral, orchestral and interdisciplinary music studies. The endowed chair will also prioritize strengthening and building relationships for increased partnership and engagement with the local community and other music organizations.

“My vision for the PLU organ endowment is to enable a world-class organ program to flourish,” Fritts said. “If implemented skillfully, this can enhance and attract quality students to the school who would otherwise not come. PLU has unique facilities and generous access to those facilities to attract these prospective students. While there are currently pressing needs for the continuation of existing programs, an effective organ department can be a beacon for the whole PLU community.”

Fritts has a deep connection with PLU. His father, Dr. Byard Fritts, was a member of the music faculty in the 1950s. Byard taught piano and organ performance, music composition theory and conducted the Concert Chorus. 

“The music department in those early days was small and my father brought his teaching skills to composition classes, choral conducting and other diverse classes,” Fritts said. 

Fritts founded the Paul Fritts & Co. Organ Builders in 1979, and says he has been dedicated to the design and construction of high-quality pipe organs ever since. His company was commissioned by former music professor David Dahl to develop the Lagerquist Hall organ in the Mary Baker Russell Music Center. 

“The magnificent Gottfired and Mary Fuchs Organ in Lagerquist Concert Hall was built by Paul Fritts and Co. in 1998 and is known nationwide as one of the top university organs in the country,” said Cameron Bennett, Dean of the School of Arts and Communication. “Paul’s incredible and generous gift will ensure that his legacy will impact future PLU students in the years ahead through the creation of this endowed faculty position while also supporting programming that will continue and enhance our rich organ tradition, both at PLU and throughout the region.” 

Fritts’s donation will assist in increasing the visibility of PLU’s music program through recruiting; collaborating with choral, orchestral, and interdisciplinary programs at PLU; creating strong connections with churches, schools, and universities; and fostering strong connections to broader professional organ organizations through increased opportunities for hosting national and international events.