Sarah Mahler Kraaz is professor of music, college organist, and chair of the Music Department at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin. She teaches piano, organ, harpsichord, counterpoint, and music history classes including Women in Music and American Music. Director of the Ripon College Collegium Musicum, she has a keen interest in exploring vocal chamber music, putting on programs ranging from plainchant to music by contemporary composers.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Olivet College and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in music history and organ performance from the University of
Colorado and the University of Kansas, respectively. An experienced teacher on piano, organ, and harpsichord, she delights in researching and performing Baroque and contemporary organ works, especially those by lesser-known composers. Her concert programs transcend the boundaries of time and nationality to present musical insights and commonalities that might not be readily apparent.
In July 2002, Dr. Kraaz appeared as a guest recitalist at the XVI Festival Internazionale Storici Organi della Valsesia in Campertogno (Piedmont), Italy, the only North American to do so. Since then, she has played recitals in California, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Edinburgh, Scotland.
In January 2008, she was selected as one of six recording artists by the National UCC Worship & Education Ministry to record the entire New Century Hymnal on a CD set as a resource for parish churches. A featured artist (organ) with the Pine Mountain Music Festival in June 2008, she presented three recitals and a workshop on pedaling technique in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Most recently, she was a featured artist at Brevard College, where she played a recital on the 2008 Jaeckel organ at the Porter Arts Center.
Dr. Kraaz has devoted much of her personal research to examining the connection between Renaissance and Baroque organs and music written for each. Thanks to various grants, Dr. Kraaz has taken a series of trips to Europe to study and play historic organs in Germany (the 1687 Schnitger organ at the church of St. Peter and Paul in Cappel), Scotland (organs, harpsichords, and clavichords in the Russell Collection), and Italy. A recent sabbatical study took her to Tuscany, where she performed a recital on the 1793 Tronci organ at the Cathedral of San Zeno in Pistoia as part of the Giuseppe Gherardeschi Organ Academy Vespers series. Her resulting article, discussing Gherardeschi’s music and the 18th-century Pistoian organ, appeared in the November 2011 issue of The Diapason. Dr. Kraaz continued her research on Tuscan organs in the fall of 2012 while teaching as a visiting scholar on the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) Arts of Florence program.
In an extension of her professional practice and research, Dr. Kraaz has composed a number of works for organ and choir. Her settings of Scottish folksongs and sea chanteys have been published by Alliance Publications of Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Her most recent anthem, “The Bitter Winter,” with text by Ralph Freeman of Neenah, Wisconsin, was premiered by the Ripon College Choral Union in April 2008.