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Politics

San Diego, Meet Your New Civic Organist

Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez appears in this undated photo.
Spreckels Organ Society
Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez appears in this undated photo.

Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez will be the next San Diego Civic Organist and artistic director of the Spreckels Organ Society.

San Diego is only one of two U.S. cities with a civic organist — the other is Portland, Maine — and last summer the current organist Carol Williams announced she was stepping down. Filling her seat took a search for someone who could not only play the organ but who could command the large crowd of visitors that often fills Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

RELATED: Wanted: A New Civic Organist For San Diego

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The Spreckels Organ Society, the city of San Diego and the San Diego Park and Recreation Department embarked on a months-long search to hire a replacement. A search committee of San Diego musicians and representatives from the city and Spreckels Organ Society selected Prieto Ramírez.

“He is obviously an outstanding organist, but he also embodies the charisma and personality that we felt were equally important," said Jack Lasher, president of the Spreckels Organ Society, in a statement.

Prieto Ramírez is still in Spain, so was not available immediately for an interview, but answered a few questions by email. He is currently artistic director and founder of the Barcelona Summer Organ Festival and Academy, and has taught at universities including Indiana University and Baylor.

He said the reasons he wanted the job are "deeply linked with my commitment to this world as an artist."

He continued:

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"If there had to be a place out there for my work to develop, that is obviously San Diego for sure. Imagine for a moment a world without any music at all … live music is unavoidable, it has always been there before humans could even speak, and it is a the key element that makes us become aware of how everyone out there — those sharing the public space with us — they all have the same complex emotional world we do, and they deserve the same respect and understanding we do. Sharing the good music help us understand how similar our feelings are as a society, and how we all need each other for a more fulfilling life as a community. Plainly, live music makes our society better, and being aware of that is what makes me wake up every day and work to contribute to the good of my fellow citizens. That is the reason why I became an artist, but that’s obviously something I can’t do alone. Winning by unanimity the position of San Diego Civic Organist proved to me that here in America’s finest city there is a very important group of people sharing my same goals, and that makes me want to work with them right away. The Spreckels Organ in Balboa Park is a wonderful tool to contribute to make the great music accessible for everyone, and let every single citizen and visitor to join and share their feelings through the experience of live music in an unparalleled location devoted to the arts and beauty. The people, the location, the opportunity this position gives me to boost my commitment to contribute to the benefit of this society … all that made me understand that San Diego is the right place for me, and I’m thrilled that the search committee and the Spreckels Organ Society thought the same way.<br><br>Since my goal is to contribute to make this community a better one through the power of music, my intention is to develop links and collaborations with all those social institutions that are already working for the same goal in San Diego. I want the Spreckels Organ to be there for all San Diegans, and to make such amazing instrument to serve for the good of this community in as many different ways as possible. I can see a great potential ahead, and I’m really excited to start working on it."
Prieto Ramírez will take over the planning and scheduling of Spreckels concerts. His first concert will be on Sunday, Jan. 7, at 2 pm.

Prieto Ramírez will be the eighth San Diego Civic Organist. His predecessor, Williams, held the job for 15 years.

San Diego, Meet Your New Civic Organist
Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez will be the next San Diego Civic Organist and artistic director of the Spreckels Organ Society.

This is midday edition and I am Alison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Apparently lots of her students thought San Diego's high school of international studies teacher Jamie Brown was great even before she was named one of California's teachers of the year. Reports are that her students cheered when the news of the award was announced only five teachers are selected every year for their excellence. Jamie Brown teaches high level English and film studies. She spoke with midday host Maureen Cavanaugh earlier.You got a phone call last week to let you know you had been named one of the teachers of the year. Tell me about that.Yes, I received a phone call. It was happily during passing period but I didn't recognize the number and when I picked up it was actually our state superintendent of state instruction and he called to congratulate me and tell me I was selected as one of the 5 California teachers of the year.Your name was in consideration for local teacher of the year and submitted to the state for this award. Why do you think awards like this are important?I think they are really important because one of the things that we are facing right now is a teacher shortage throughout the country, but especially in the state of California. We need to elevate teaching as a profession to encourage more young people to join in. I am really lucky to be in San Diego because we celebrate teachers like no one else in the country does. I feel very lucky for that.You have been very open about the fact that going to middle school in Texas was hard for you, and it seems to have influenced how you teach now. What did you experience as a young student lacksI grew up in San Diego but for eighth grade, ninth grade and 10th grade I did live in Texas one of the teachers I had on the first day of school, as she was calling role, everyone who had a Latino sounding name was set on one side of the class and all of our white students were sitting on the other side. My first name is spelled like Hymie so she called me that and I raise my name and said it's Jamie. She sat me on the side of the classroom where all of the other Latino kids were. I was kind of shocked and I did eventually work up the courage to ask why and she said that my good students need a quiet place to work. She didn't know any of us. Living in San Diego when growing up as a part of a multicultural family, it didn't really prepare me for that type of overt racism. As a young person I still haven't quite found my voice to fight against that. I remember from then on she would call my name every morning and she would call the role -- roll and she would call me Hymie. Eventually I stopped correcting her. I got a C grade in that class and I think it was because of how she treated me as a teacher.How do you teach your students about stereotypes?I try to create a safe place for all of my students. That starts on day one, trying to show them that there voice matters and my question. I don't want anyone to feel squelched in my classroom. On the first day of class, I will oftentimes have a spectrum set up in the front of the classroom, a poster with a line and a question. Sometimes it's as simple as how excited are you to be here today. As they come in they can quietly place there.along the spectrum. Then we have a conversation about why they put& Where they did -- why they put the dot where they did. It's important for people to know that there voice matters in their opinion matters. That will provide a good foundation for them using their voices and having a more rigorous discussion as we continue through the year.You say you also want your students to find their voice outside of the classroom. What do you mean by that?When I think about what's important or what I would like my students to know and be able to do and they them across the room, a big part of it is using that voice, whether it be standing up for themselves in personal situations, in their place of employment, or even becoming an activist, feeling strong and crowded -- grounded. I think that's important, no matter what they do in the rest of their lives.You discovered you have come from a long line of teachers all the way back to your great-great-grandmother.I believe that's right. My Kathy my aunt Kathy recently released this document that she scanned to me. I think it shows my great grandmother's teaching credential. I'm forgetting the state. It was in California. I have been very fortunate to come from a long lines of educators. I have three aunts who are educators and my parents taught English in Japan before I was born.There's another unusual aspect to your career. You teach at San Diego high school. You have been there since the start of your career. You also graduated from San Diego high. What makes that school so special in your eyes?One of the things that I have been very fortunate to have our amazing teachers. I had some really incredible teachers at San Diego high school who later became my mentor's as I was looking into becoming a teacher and finally were my colleagues. I think that coupled with the international baccalaureate program there which really prepare before college and made me feel like my voice matters, those two things are probably why I was eager to return their as a teacher -- return there is a teacher.What does a state teacher of the year get? Is there a monetary award? Is there a plaque? You have special duties?[ Laughter ] I just found of found out about the California honor. I am interested to see what happens. We have the professional development in Sacramento in December where I get to meet the other California teachers of the year. I am sure that will be invaluable. There's also a gala elevation in February. I was lucky enough to be one of the 5 anti-teachers of the year. That has already come with many rewards. One of them was that we were given $1000 from San Diego State athletics to spend an hour classroom we were also given $1000 by Cox Communications who is the sponsor of the program.What advice do you have for aspiring teachers today?Wow! That's a great question! I think, it's a very challenging job and one of the things that I am still learning how to do is balancing work and life. If you can keep it about the students, all of your decisions like what you are doing in the classroom, what professional development you seek out to make yourself a better teacher; always bring it back to how this is going to serve my students. How is this going to make this environment or my teaching more meaningful for them?I have been speaking with Jamie Brown who teaches at San Diego high school of international studies and has been named one of California's teachers of the year. Jamie, thank you so much [ Indiscernible - heavy accent ] thank you so much. It has been a pleasure.That was teacher Jamie Brown speaking with the day edition host Maureen Cavanaugh.