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Scots graduate wins prestigious music award in New York

Aaron Hawthorne, 22, was named the American Theatre Organ Society's 2019 Young Theatre Organist.

Award: Aaron Hawthorne. <strong>STV</strong>
Award: Aaron Hawthorne. STV

By Kevin Scott

A man from Motherwell has won a prestigious music award in New York.

Aaron Hawthorne, 22, has just returned from Rochester in New York after emerging victorious in the American Theatre Organ Society’s 2019 Young Theatre Organist competition.

Aaron accepted the honour just weeks after graduating from the University of Glasgow with a Master of the Arts degree in Music.

He said: “It’s still to sink in actually, it was such an incredible week, it was a very fast week but a very rewarding week as well, lots of new friends and contacts made and it was really fantastic.

“And, you know, two, three years ago I could only have dreamt of winning that competition.”

Aaron’s love of the organ began on a family holiday to the English seaside resort of Blackpool.

It was on that trip that his parents took him to the famous Tower Ballroom and he heard the sounds of the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ organ.

He then devoted his teenage years to learning organ technique and regularly practised at Pollokshaws Burgh Hall in Glasgow, having already self-teaching himself to play piano from a young age by ear.

Aaron said: “I found it quite difficult trying to persuade a lot of my friends and even the music teachers the organ was a serious instrument that I was interested in, and especially these theatre organs.

“They’re sort of known for the ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ sort of thing and they can be seen as sort of cheesy and sort of tacky, that sort of thing.

“But yeah I think they started to realise the closer I got to finishing school I was taking it a lot more serious and I had started playing in churches and they knew I was going to try and get to do music in university, so I eventually sort of won everyone over but at first they weren’t really seeing me sat at one of these things.”

Aaron’s success has also led to him being invited to join the team of organists at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Musuem in the West End of Glasgow, where daily recitals are held all year round.

He has performed to tens of thousands of people over more than 50 recitals. 

“I’ve always very much been a person of ‘everything happens for a reason’ and I just always seem to be in the right place at the right time just now, so I’m pretty happy with my lifestyle just now with all of this happening and all the music I get to create,” he said.

“I’m just really fortunate that I get to make a living with something that I absolutely love doing,” he added.

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