Local Musician Alessandro Pittorino has been accepted into the two-years masters course at Julliard School in New York. Pittorino will be the first Australian organist to gain a place at the prestigious school and will take up his studies there in September 2015.
Pittorino recently graduated from the UWA School of Music and is the musical director of St Mary’s Anglican Church in South Perth. Known for his charismatic stage presence, self-confessed flamboyant dress, and impressive musical talent Pittorino has been a major player in the Perth’s classical music scene. His winter concert series at St Mary’s have been a notable part of Perth’s concert calendar in recent years, and his annual Halloween concert involving the screening of classic silent movies accompanied by organ improvisations have been hugely popular.
Pittorino will be performing a farewell concert in Perth on Saturday 15th August 2015 at Perth Concert Hall.
From a hand-picked group of the world’s young organists, Perth-born Alessandro Pittorino is one of only two awarded a place at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.
He was also the first Australian to gain a place as an organist, and possibly the only applicant ever to be accepted minutes after auditioning.
Pittorino, a 21-year-old music graduate from the University of Western Australia, saw his dream come true when he travelled to New York a few weeks ago.
He met Paul Jacobs, Juilliard’s organ department chair and a Grammy Award-winning organist “who can play all the organ works of JS Bach and other composers from memory”, says Pittorino. “He’s a genius.”
In another first, Pittorino was the only one among 20 applicants who played his audition pieces — by JS Bach, Cesar Franck and Olivier Messiaen — entirely from memory. “When I auditioned they listened to the first few minutes, then said ‘stop!’ That was nerve-racking. Then they said, ‘Go from this section’, then ‘Do a bit of the third piece’. They thanked me and then Paul Jacobs said, ‘We would like to offer you a position’. I was so shocked I walked into the door on the way out.”
Pittorino, who grew up without a father, has been supported by his hardworking, non-musical mother. He has paid his way through university by playing organ at four schools and at St Mary’s Anglican Church in South Perth, where he is musical director. “I’m proud of my mother. She taught me that if you want something, you go and get it,” he said.
He is busy organising a series of Perth concerts to raise funds for his two-year masters study in New York, augmenting $20,000 from two US scholarships he has already won.
UWA organ tutor Annette Goerke taught Pittorino for three years and says he “has a flair for performance and an excellent memory for the music. He has a God-given gift.”
She said Pittorino did not share “the often closed perspective of organists to new musical experiences”.
Pittorino is a self-confessed showman who loves to engage with his audience.
“I was never looking to be a clone of anyone,’’ he said.
“I like to be seen, and to say to my audience ‘Thank you for coming to hear me’.”
After his Juilliard studies, which begin in September, he would like to become the first Australian organ soloist to tour the world. “I want people to appreciate the organ as an extraordinary musical instrument.”
He’s not quite the Hendrix of the pipe organ but 22-year-old Perth organist Alessandro Pittorino is proving just as flamboyant, virtuosic and groundbreaking as any rock god of the guitar.
“There’s still the stereotype of the church organists stuck right up in the loft, out of sight,” Pittorino says.
“I’m not like that. I love performing and I love people seeing me perform in stylish outfits. My large wardrobe is proof of that.”
A recent graduate of UWA, where he studied with Annette Goerke, Pittorino has made music history by being the first Australian organist ever accepted into a Master’s at New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music.
“I’m over the moon,” he says. “It’s an amazing thing not only to be accepted but to be accepted on the spot, right after my audition.”
Pittorino, who is giving a solo organ recital, Au Revoir, at the Perth Concert Hall next month to help fund his Julliard studies, fell in love with the organ at the age of five.
“I was sitting in St Patrick’s in Fremantle watching the organist and I was fascinated by all the keys and buttons and the way he used his feet on the pedals,” Pittorino says.
“The incredible sound was the main thing. There was the console but the sound was coming from somewhere way above that. I thought it was just magical. That was the beginning of everything musical for me and by the time I reached Year 12 it became apparent I didn’t have time for anything else.”
Pittorino plays everything from new compositions by Perth composers on a Hammond organ through accompanying silent movies to the “average” organ recital with the music of J. S. Bach as a staple. He firmly believes being a full-time concert organist is a viable career option for a young musician.
“There’s so much this instrument can do,” he says. “And you can have a career. You just have to be pushy, like I am.”
It might help to be as talented as Pittorino, too.