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Minister of Music Presents Gift to Establish Black Composers Archive Fund for Organ Music

Minister of Music Presents Gift to Establish Black Composers Archive Fund for Organ Music

James Maase poses in regalia next to organ

James Earl Maase, minister of music, arts and worship at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, recently presented a gift to University Libraries to establish a Black composers archive fund for organ music.

In presenting the gift, Maase said he believes music is an “incredible tool to permeate people’s hearts and minds in miraculous ways.”

“My first awareness of music was hearing the organ played at church,” he recalled. “As I learned about other instruments, singing, conducting and composing, I knew it was to be a lifelong love of mine.

“As we face another wave of injustice to people of color, I have wrestled with what I could do to reach out and maybe make a speck of change in the world,” he added. “One day it hit me that musicians can be educated in the vast amount of Black composers and arrangers and learn from their lives and stories. I want to create a fund, with the sole purpose of purchasing music (with a preference and priority to compositions for organ), so that students may experience this wealth of music.

“Another desire would be to identify and honor living Black composers, educators and performers with a piece of music that has been given in their honor to the library.”

As he considered the ways he could personally contribute toward addressing the nation’s state of racial injustice, Maase said it dawned on him that he could perhaps help most through his life’s work and passion: music.

Though Maase did not attend OU, he had heard positive things over the years about the university’s music and organ programs from students, colleagues and others, including his longtime friend and colleague Damin Spritzer, D.M.A.

“We are so honored and delighted that Mr. Maase chose OU for this gift, and chose to support our organ program,” said Spritzer, area chair and assistant professor of organ in OU’s Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and artist-in-residence for St. Matthew's Cathedral Arts in Dallas.

“Jim’s gift has enabled us to immediately purchase a significant number of organ music scores of Black composers, including living composers, for our students’ study and performance,” Spritzer said. “We have started a collective studio document ‘wish-list’ where the students themselves can contribute to an ongoing list of music by Black composers that they would like to study and like to have available in our Fine Arts Library, so they are able to participate fully in this and help direct the acquisitions and increase the diversity of the music that we are able to access, study and perform.”

Maase earned his degree in music education from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, while working as a music associate for University Christian Church. After graduation, he was hired as a music associate for Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. While there, he developed a large youth choir and handbell choir and a young adult chorale; he also was asked by the Choristers Guild to train as a youth choir clinician, a position that allowed him to conduct workshops in many different states.

In his next position as director of music at Centenary United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, he had the opportunity to oversee the building of a new complex and pipe organ.

In 1993, Maase was hired as music associate for Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. During his almost 28-year career there, he has led numerous efforts, including overseeing the creation at the church of a community-based school of the arts (Adventures in the Arts), for which he serves as director. Under his direction, over the past five years the school has launched summer music and arts camps for exploratory experiences.

Friends of the arts and the university are welcome to contribute toward this worthy fund. For a tax-deductible contribution, please send a check made payable to the OU Foundation, PO Box 258856, Oklahoma City, OK 73125-8856. Please write James Earl Maase Black Composers Archive Fund (Fund #34020) on the memo line. You may also give online at Write James Earl Maase Black Composers Archive Fund (Fund #34020) in the comment section.

 Questions? Contact Karen Renfroe at for more information.


By Jerri Culpepper

Article Published:  Wednesday, September 23, 2020