In Conversation with Madison Thompson ’25: Playing Organ in the Campus Chapel

3 min read

Abbey O’Leary ’24

Features Editor

In a conversation with the Tripod, Madison Thompson ’25 discusses her experiences as an organist at Trinity. Thompson has been working as an Assistant Chapel Organist since her freshman year with the chapel, accompanying the chapel singers and performing on Sundays as well as at Evensong. She is also the current recipient of the John Rose Organ Scholarship, usually awarded to only one advanced organ student who has chosen to study the organ primarily.

Thompson first came to Trinity in December 2020, touring campus during the height of Covid. She remembered arriving on an empty campus, far from the picturesque ideal of college expected on a first tour. However, Thompson said that from the beginning, “I just saw the beauty in the campus and everything it had to offer.” After her initial meeting with Professor Christopher Houlihan, Trinity College’s John Rose College Organist-and-Directorship Distinguished Chair of Chapel Music, Thompson remembered feeling welcomed and at home in the program. She has continued to study closely with Professor Houlihan, taking organ lessons, studying the extensive history and repertoire of concert music, and playing hymns. She expressed gratitude for her time spent working with Professor Houlihan, appreciative of his effort put into fostering connections with his students and building a community.

Thompson is one of five students currently studying the organ on campus. On a decisively professional track, she has taken on additional work as a Chapel Organist. She said that she is grateful for this exposure because it has given her the chance to work off campus and gain additional field opportunities. Thompson is also an Organ Scholar at St. Patrick St. Anthony Church in Hartford and spent a week at Yale University’s Organ Week alongside 16 other aspiring organists from around the country. Thompson said that since coming to Trinity and gaining this exposure, “the doors have really been opening up for me over the past two years of my study.”

Thompson did note that organists have historically been male. She admitted that it is difficult, and before coming to Trinity she even worried about entering such a male-dominated field. However, the support she has received at Trinity, especially from Professor Houlihan, has been encouraging her to keep pursuing her passion of playing the organ professionally. She stated, “I felt really welcomed and never judged” since coming to Trinity.

When asked about her future plans, Thompson said that she will continue studying the organ in Paris in the spring at Middlebury in Paris. And, upon graduation, she aspires to continue her education of the organ in graduate school. However, her biggest goal is to “continue to do concerts and recitals and share music with others.” She said, “I really love making music” and expressed how much she loves being able to build a community through music, because, “When you put in all the effort and are able to share it, it is not only rewarding for yourself, but it is rewarding for those you share it with.”

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