Brenda Portman is the Resident Organist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, where she provides music for worship services, accompanies the Wesley Choir and Cathedral Choir, and serves as Executive Director of the church’s renowned Organ Concert Series. She teaches organ privately and at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (2016) in organ performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where she received a full scholarship as first prize winner of the Strader Organ Competition and served as a teaching assistant for the organ department.
Dr. Portman has received numerous awards in organ competitions, spanning a decade: from First Place in the Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition in Connecticut (2006) to Finalist and Audience Prize winner in the Sursa American Organ Competition at Ball State University (2016). In October 2014 she was the only female American organist to compete in the prestigious Canadian International Organ Competition in Montréal. Her performance there led to a collaboration with acclaimed Canadian composer Rachel Laurin and a recording on the 88-rank Casavant organ of HPCUMC Cincinnati: "Pilgrimages: Organ Music of Rachel Laurin Inspired by Sacred Themes," which was released in April 2016 on the Raven label. Other prizes include First Place in the Arthur Poister Organ Competition (2007), First Place in the Bank District British/American Organ Competition (2009) - performing a winner's recital at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and Third Place in the Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition (2012). She has also been a finalist in the Fort Wayne National Organ-Playing Competition (2010) and a semifinalist in the AGO’s National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (2010).
In 2017 Dr. Portman was awarded the AAGO certificate (Associate of the American Guild of Organists), and received the AAGO Prize for the highest exam score, as well as the S. Lewis Elmer Award for the highest score on both the AAGO and FAGO exams combined.
Generated from her doctoral research on minimalism and twentieth-century Dutch organ music, Dr. Portman’s article “The Eclectic Landscape of Ride in a High-Speed Train,” about the above-named composition by Ad Wammes was published in December 2015 in The Diapason. Another article, “Minimalism or Not? A Closer Look at Ad Wammes’s Miroir,” was published in August 2017 by The American Organist. Other recent activities include teaching at the 2016 Pipe Organ Encounter Advanced (POEA) in Cincinnati, judging AGO scholarship auditions, and presenting workshops on contemporary organ repertoire for church use. She has served on the executive board of the Cincinnati AGO since 2011.
In addition to "Pilgrimages," Dr. Portman recorded a CD of organ works of Edwin T. Childs entitled “All Might and Majesty” (2009) on the Schantz organ at College Church in Wheaton, IL. She commissioned Dr. Childs to write a new multi-movement organ work (Pentecost Suite) which she premiered in June 2014 for the tenth anniversary of the Organ Concert Series at HPCUMC.
Also a composer, Dr. Portman writes primarily sacred choral, vocal, and organ works. Her concert settings of hymns for solo voice and piano have been highly acclaimed by many professional singers. Three hymn preludes for organ were selected for the Bayoubüchlein project (published by Selah) of the 2016 AGO convention in Houston, and she is currently commissioned to compose a new solo work for organ for the 2020 AGO convention in Atlanta. Her Elegy for solo organ was the winner of the Twin Cities AGO Composition Competition in 2016, and her musical setting of the commissioned hymn text "Christ, Who Was Before the World Began" won an award in 2014 for the 300th anniversary of Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Dr. Portman held previous positions as Organist at First Presbyterian Church in Flint, Michigan, and Director of Music Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church and School and Jackson, Michigan. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in music education from Wheaton College and a Master’s Degree in church music and organ performance from Northwestern University. She has studied with John Behnke, Edward Zimmerman, Douglas Cleveland, Marilyn Mason, Roberta Gary, and Michael Unger. She is represented by Concert Artist Cooperative.
Brenda Portman concert organist - composer - arranger