A featured star in the PBS documentary Pipe Dreams, Alcée Chriss III is an organist, composer, and conductor from Fort Worth, TX. The son of a minister, Chriss is known for incorporating gospel and jazz influences into his performance—having first learned jazz and classical on the piano before turning to the organ as a teenager. Winner of the 2017 Canadian International Organ Competition and the Bach prize, Chriss is widely regarded as one of the leading young organists of our time. 


Learn More - Explore These Themes

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested topics:

  • Music Theory 
  • Music History
  • Music Composition
  • Organ Studies
  • Music: Improvisation
  • Music: Jazz, Gospel, Classical

Take a deeper dive with these resources that provide additional information about the performers, the history of the artform, and the artistic process.


Start a conversation about the performance, or encourage reflection, using these questions as inspiration.

In his interview on the Hammond Organ with Future Stops podcast, Alcée Chriss III explains that his childhood experiences with music at Morningside United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas were “the inception” of who he is today. Even now, the gospel music of his youth influences his work. 

  • How do you think religion and music intersect?
  • Did your upbringing impact your relationship with music?
  • Where have you heard an organ outside a church setting?
  • Can you identify places where two musical traditions collide?

In 2017, Alcée Chriss III won the Canadian International Organ Competition and was featured in a documentary about the competition called Pipe Dreams.

  • How do you think competitions and publicity can make more people aware of the organ? 
  • How do they launch artists’ careers? 
  • How might they encourage and/or limit artistic expression?

In his 2021 interview with the Canadian International Organ Competition, Alcée Chriss III says that his first ideas about the pipe organ came from children’s cartoons that depicted it as a “dark, mysterious instrument that was far too complicated for any normal person to understand.” He didn’t have an opportunity to play a real pipe organ until he was 16.

  • What are your perceptions of the organ? 
  • How might it be introduced to young people in an approachable way? 
  • What might this dark, mysterious, and complicated representation suggest about the organ’s power?


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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.