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San Diego, Meet Your New Civic Organist

Spanish organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez appears in this undated photo.

Credit: Spreckels Organ Society

Above: 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

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:

"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.

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.

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



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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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