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Carl B. Staplin   

***Sigma Alpha Iota National Arts Associate


Carl StaplinDr. Carl B. Staplin, AAGO, is Professor of Organ and Church Music and Academic Coordinator for the music department at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, 50311. He is also Minister of Music and Organist at the First Christian Church. Before joining the Drake faculty he taught at the University of Evansville, where he was responsible for the development of an organ performance program and the installation of two organs. Since his arrival in 1967 three new organs have been installed at Drake.

His early training was with Dr. Roberta Bitgood in Buffalo, New York. This was followed by four years of study under Dr. Arthur Poister at Syracuse University. His private composition study was with Ernst Bacon. Following military service he furthered his musical studies at the Yale School of Music, where his performance studies were under the guidance of Charles Krigbaum and Finn Videro. Private composition study was pursued with Richard Donovan. While at Yale he was awarded several prizes as an outstanding organist and student in the School of Music. In 1966 he received the PhD in performance practice from Washington University, St. Louis, where he was an appointed research fellow. Special studies in organ performance and musicology were pursued under Howard Kelsey and Dr. Paul Pisk, with additional study under Anton Heiller. Coaching in improvisation was done in Paris during 1984 with Jean Guillou, and he premiered Guillou's La Chapelle des Abîmes. His CD recording of Bach's masterwork, Clavierübung III   (the "German Organ Mass") has been released by Calcante Recordings Ltd., 3191 Cranberry Lane, Buford, GA 30519. An earlier recording of other works was done on another modern tracker instrument in this country, and selections from both recordings have been heard on "Pipe Dreams," National Public Radio's weekly broadcast. 

During summer, 1999, he coached privately with Harald Vogel in Germany after participating in a tour of instruments from Bach's time. During a sabbatical leave from Drake he resided in Paris, where he studied with Dr. Marie-Claire Alain and André Marchal, covering the great French organ literature. While in Europe he traveled extensively and recorded more than 35 organs in seven countries. He recently did research at Yale University and studied the English choir tradition in a number of English cathedrals. He has released a recording on a modern tracker instrument in this country, and has been heard on "Pipe Dreams," National Public Radio's weekly broadcast. He recently completed a series of five recitals devoted to Bach's organ masterpieces, a total of 44 works in all. These recitals were performed in Des Moines, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Freeport, Illinois, and Perry, Iowa.

Dr. Staplin's doctoral dissertation on the chorale preludes of J.S. Bach was published in its entirety during 1967 and 1968 in a national organists' journal. Other publications include organ, choral, and instrumental compositions which have been released by eight national publishing firms. He is a member of the Iowa Composers Forum and recent performances of his works have been at Drake University, Iowa State University, Coe College, the University of Northern Iowa and the fall 2003 Iowa Composers Forum Festival in Dubuque, Iowa. Luther College's internationally known Nordic Choir under the direction of Dr. Weston Noble sang his "O Clap Your Hands" in their West Coast Tour in 2005, as well as the homecoming concert on campus at Luther. International performances include Vienna, Austria, and a number of cities in the Czech Republic, Italy, and Brazil. His compositions have also been broadcast over WOI-FM at Iowa State University on numerous occasions. He has written a textbook entitled Make A Joyful Noise! - 500 Years of Sacred Music.

As a recitalist and guest clinician he has presented about 200 concerts and workshops throughout the United States and Europe. These have included engagements in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Yale University (three guest performances), and the University of Colorado (two guest performances). He has been a featured recitalist and clinician at national and regional conventions, including the 1968 AGO "National in the Rockies," the Southern New England and Mid-America AGO regional conventions, and the 1972 MTNA National Convention in Chicago. He was a featured presenter for the recent national conventions of the AGO held in New York City (1996) and Denver (1998). The 1998 and 2000 national AGO organ pedagogy conferences held at Colorado State University and Seattle were under his direction. He has also been a touring artist for the Iowa Arts Council. European engagements include recitals in Germany, The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland.  In 1983 he was the first American organist to be invited to perform in the famed Laurenskerk of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has concertized under Phyllis Stringham Concert Management. In 1997 he began a three year term as director for the national committee on professional education (COPE) for the American Guild of Organists (AGO). From 1984 to 1988 he was regional chairman for Region 6 of the AGO, comprising 10 Midwestern states. He also served for four years as national collegiate organ chairman for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and was a member of the national editorial board for the American Music Teacher. In 2003 he was named a National Arts Affiliate and honorary member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. He has acted as consultant for organ installations in numerous churches and institutions.

Former organ students of Dr. Staplin occupy leading positions in churches and institutions throughout the United States. Many have been first place winners and finalists in state, regional, and national organ competitions. These include such prestigious contests as the national MTNA collegiate organ auditions, and the AGO sponsored local, regional and national competitions. His students have received grants to do post-graduate study abroad, and have continued their studies with leading artists in France, Germany, and England.


Contact Information

1149 23rd St
West Des Moines, IA 50266

Annual Updates




Two Preludes on French Psalm Tunes, Kenneth Crilly, organ, First Christian Church. Des Moines, IA, June 2011. Advent Prelude on the Name of St. Mark, Carl Gravander, organ, Region VI American Guild of Organists Convention, St. John’s Basilica Des Moines, IA, June 2011. Organ Trancription of two movements from Saint-Saëns’ Symphony #3, Linda Bryant, organ, Region VI AGO Convention at Grinnell College, June 2011. Two Preludes on French Psalm Tunes, Carl B. Staplin, organ, First Christian Church. Des Moines, Jan. 2011.




Advent Prelude on the Name of St. Mark (for organ) as part of a joint organ concert honoring my former concert manager, Phyllis Stringham, at Carroll College, Waukesha, Wisconsin on 9/19/10.  Members of her concert agency and former students joined in presenting this memorial concert.



A Fantasia on French Noels for SATB chorus, was commissioned by the Iowa Choral Directors Association and the Iowa Composers Forum. It was introduced July 30, 2009, by the Une Vocis Choral Ensemble, under the direction of Dennis Lee, accompanied by Mary Jane Crail, in a performance at Northern Iowa Community College, Mason City, IA.


In a Stable Christ Was Born, SATB; by Harold Flammer. Make a Joyful Noise, SATB; by Kjos.



Staplin, Professor Emeritus of Organ and Church Music, Drake University, Des Moines, IA, recently prepared an organ adaptation of the Adagio movement from Saint-Saens’s Symphony No. 3 (Organ); it was given its premiere September 28, 2008 by Linda Bryant, to whom the work was dedicated, at St. Lukes’ Episcopal Church, Des Moines, IA.


O Clap Your Hands was sung by the Drake University Choir in its Spring 2008 concert, Des Moines, IA; the choir also used the work as the opening piece throughout their Summer 2008 European tour. 


Three French Noels for SATB: ‘All Citizens of Chatre’, ‘In a Stable Christ was Born’, and ‘So Tell Us, Dear Mary’; Mark Foster/Shawnee Press.

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