12-year-old named as youngest Oxford organist in history

Oxfordshire schoolboy Louis Moss will play hymns for Jesus College chapel services from this Spring

Jesus College chapel
Jesus College chapel. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Louis Moss, aged twelve, has become the youngest person ever to play the organ for an Oxford University college after gaining a music scholarship at Jesus College.

Despite only taking up the organ a year ago, Moss, from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, will play the organ for hymns in Jesus College chapel services from this Spring.

The scholarship scheme is run in conjunction with the Young Organ Scholars’ Trust, and strives to reverse the declining number of youngsters learning to play the organ, after it was estimated only around 750 young people are learning to play the instrument in the UK.

After the news was announced, Louis, a pupil at The Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, said: “It is great to play such an amazing instrument. I am looking forward to improving further through my scholarship at Jesus College.”

Speaking to the Telegraph, Louis added he was “really pleased” to have the opportunity, and discussed his ambition to have a career in music: “I think I will go along that career path. I’m quite interested in composing and conducting so I might be a conductor or composer or something musical.”

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Principal of Jesus College, commented: “We are delighted to have Louis with us. By starting a young music scholarship scheme here—the first of its kind in an Oxford or Cambridge college—we are creating more opportunities to connect local state schools with Jesus College, through music.

“By beginning this project in conjunction with the Young Organ Scholars’ Trust we are helping gifted young people to have the chance to play the organ when they couldn’t have dreamt of it before.”

Speaking exclusively to Cherwell, Katharine Pardee, Betts Fellow in Organ Studies at Oxford University, said: “The organ is a wonderful instrument with a repertoire and history longer than any other, yet in part because of its nearly-exclusive connection with the mainstream Church it is in serious danger of disappearing, or at least becoming only a museum-piece.

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“It is vitally important to come up with creative ways to introduce new generations to the excitement, thrill, and beauty of the organ. Jesus College and Chaplain Megan Daffern should be applauded for their innovative approach in giving this opportunity to Louis”.

The news was also received well by Oxford students, with Oxford University Music Society President David Palmer telling Cherwell: “Musical life in Oxford is characterised by inclusivity. For example, the wide range of ensembles and performance opportunities allow for anyone to get involved, regardless of style, ability, course of study or other commitments.

“Louis’ scholarship is in keeping with this important aspect of musical life in Oxford; it is encouraging to see the University actively address the issue of the decline in young organists by recognising Louis’ ability in this way.”

Oxford University offers fifty undergraduate organ scholarships, but struggles to fill more than thirty a year. A donor will pay for Louis special £1,000-a-year scholarship for the first year, and then by the college for the two years after.