Artistic & Music Director
A native Iowan, Jeffrey Brillhart has served as Director of Music and Fine Arts at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church since 1983. Jeffrey’s responsibilities at Bryn Mawr Church include directing the Sanctuary Choir, Bryn Mawr Chamber Singers, and Singing for Life; oversight of the Vespers Series; oversight of all children and youth choirs; and the church’s arts outreach and visual arts ministries. During his tenure he has overseen the installation of two major pipe organs, a William Dowd French double harpsichord, and establishment of the West Philadelphia Children’s Choir (now the Singing City Children’s Choir).
In June 1999, he was appointed the fourth Musical and Artistic Director of Singing City, having served as Associate Director in the 1998-99 season, when he worked closely with then Music Director Joseph Flummerfelt. Mr. Brillhart provides artistic leadership for a rich program of concerts, educational instruction in local schools, and outreach to diverse communities. He directs the choir and oversees all aspects of Singing City’s musical initiatives. During his tenure with Singing City the choir has traveled to Cuba, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, the Balkans, and most recently, South Africa. Under his leadership, the choir has presented more than three-hundred concerts, collaborating with The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Black Pearl Orchestra, and Symphony in C and with such internationally renowned artists as Helmuth Rilling, Dave Brubeck, Nick Page, Moses Hogan, André Thomas, Anton Armstrong, Weston Noble, Rossen Milanov, and Melanie DeMore. In April 2007, he conducted Singing City and Kronos Quartet at the Kimmel Center in the Philadelphia premiere of “Sun Rings,” an oratorio commissioned by NASA. In November 2016, he was awarded the Elaine Brown Prize for Choral Excellence by the ACDA-PA.
In 1994 he was awarded first place prize in the American Guild of Organists National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI). Since that time, his recital tours have taken him throughout America, with engagements in San Diego, Seattle, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Waco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York City, Iowa City, Des Moines, Worcester, and throughout the eastern seaboard. In May 2006, he performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony in one of the inaugural concerts of the new Dobson Organ in Kimmel Center. In July 2006, he served as director of the Adult and Chamber Choirs at the Presbyterian Association of Musician’s Westminster Conference. Jeffrey has presented master classes at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Eastman School of Music, University of Iowa, Drake University, Baylor University, Furman University, the University of Alabama, Westminster Choir College, Walla Walla College, and for numerous chapters of The American Guild of Organists. He has also served as special music advisor to The Philadelphia Orchestra, working with Maestros Bobby McFerrin and Thomas Wilkins.
In May 2005, he was invited to join the music faculty of Yale University, where he teaches organ improvisation at the graduate level. His students at Yale have advanced to improvisation competitions in the United States and Europe and hold positions at major religious institutions throughout America and Europe. In 1993, he took a sabbatical in Paris, France where he studied organ improvisation, the organ symphonies of Louis Vierne, and the music of Maurice Duruflé. His teachers included Olivier Latry, Philippe Lefebvre, Marie Madeleine Duruflé and Wolfgang Seifan. While in Paris he was one of the first Americans to play a recital on the newly restored organ at Notre Dame Cathedral, performing works of Louis Vierne and Max Reger. In 2008, he observed a second sabbatical, which took him to Paris, Haarlem (Netherlands) and South America where he authored a textbook on organ improvisation, studied organ improvisation with Thomasz Nowak and the organ works of Olivier Messiaen with Olivier Latry. Recent engagements include the presentation of a paper titled “Olivier Messiaen and Improvisation” in Amsterdam, a solo recital on the recently renovated Longwood Gardens Aeolian organ, two improvised concerts with Parisian organist Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin at the Eastman School of Music, two “Kimmel Center Presents” performances with Canadian Brass, a concerto performance with The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and concerto performances with the Des Moines Symphony. In August-September 2012, he served as judge for the International Chartres Competition. His textbook, Breaking Free: Finding a Personal Language for Organ Improvisation through 20th century French Improvisation Techniques was released by Wayne Leupold Editions in November 2011 and is widely used in universities
in the United States and Europe. His latest book, A World of Possibilities: Master Lessons in Improvisation, is in progress.