Music program adds digital church organ to course repertoire: Westbrook’s $100,000 donation secures purchase of new digital organ
06.23.2016 | By Andrea Vasquez
After 12 years in the making and thanks to a $100,000 donation to the San Jacinto College Foundation from Dr. B.J. Westbrook, San Jacinto College has a new instrument to add to its classical music course offerings - a digital church organ.
“I hope this donation will help to continue to bring students to the San Jacinto College music program, especially those who enjoy the iconic sound of pipe organ music,” said Westbook. “I'm happy to be a part of such an endeavor and to be a supporter of this great institution.”
Remaining funds from Westbrook’s donation to purchase the digital organ for the College’s music program will go toward establishing a Westbrook family endowment with the Foundation.
“Dr. Westbrook has taken the initiative to leave the San Jacinto College Foundation in his will,” said Ruth Keenan, San Jacinto College Foundation executive director. “His planned gift began with this $100,000 donation to provide funding for a family scholarship endowment to purchase a teaching organ, a need that has been pending for the past 12 years. This has been a tremendous boost to both our music and scholarship programs. We are so grateful to Dr. Westbrook and his family for the legacy that this gift will create for generations to come.”
San Jacinto College Board of Trustees Chairman Dan Mims also expressed his gratitude to Westbrook. “On behalf of San Jacinto College and its students, I would like to thank Dr. B.J. Westbrook for his generous contribution to the San Jacinto College Foundation,” said Mims. “His donation to the Foundation will allow many students to achieve their educational goals at San Jacinto College, thereby improving their lives. He leads by example in community service as well as other areas of life. Serving with him as a member of the Rotary Club of North Shore has allowed me to witness first hand his generosity and commitment to the community. Dr. Westbrook truly embodies ‘service above self.’”
The digital organ, which is now on display at the San Jacinto College Central Campus Monte Blue Music Building concert hall, is a Johannus Ecclesia D-570 digital church organ. Along with traditional church hymns, the organ also lends itself to iconic musical compositions echoing Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. Probably one of the more infamous organ compositions heard throughout Hollywood and Broadway is Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” heard in countless renditions of The Phantom of the Opera.
San Jacinto College music professor Dr. Martha Braswell adds that organ music is still enjoyed today, more than people think. “There is a great demand not only in the Pasadena area, but around the nation as well, for trained organists to provide service music for traditional church services and to provide great performances of compositions by historical composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Caesar Franck and Marcel Dupre,” said Braswell. “The San Jacinto College music department continues to have one of the most successful community college music transfer student programs in the state. Our students are sought after by major university music education programs in Texas. This is one area that we have been unable to provide education in, and now a dream has come true.”
As a result of this donation and organ purchase, an exciting event awaits music lovers when a world-renowned composer and musician collaborate for a dedicatory concert specifically for the new digital church organ. Internationally acclaimed composer and San Jacinto College alumnus Dr. Wayne Oquin is being commissioned to compose a piece specifically for the opening digital organ concert. Set to perform the composition is the first and only Grammy-winning organist, Paul Jacobs, who has performed concerts across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Both Oquin and Jacobs serve as department chairs at The Julliard School in New York, for ear training and the organ department, respectively. The San Jacinto College concert will be announced at a later date.
For more information on the San Jacinto College music department, visit sanjac.edu/career/music. For more information on the San Jacinto College Foundation, planned giving, or how to donate, visit sanjac.edu/foundation.
Pictured left to right: First row: Ruth Keenan, San Jacinto College Foundation executive director; Dr. B.J. Westbrook; Mickie Westbrook; Renee Ydelle; John Painter; and Kelly Waterman. Second row: Dan Mims, San Jacinto College Board of Trustees chairman; Eric Late, San Jacinto College department chair for music/audio engineering; and Dr. Martha Braswell, San Jacinto College music professor. Third row: Kevin Morris, San Jacinto College dean of business and technology; Rick Bocock, Johannus Organs of Texas; Bill Palko; Dr. James Braswell, San Jacinto College dean of administration; and Dr. Paul Busselberg, San Jacinto College music professor. Photo credit: Amanda Fenwick, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations and government affairs department.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.