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Piedmont VP reprises first organ solo 40 years later
Dr. James Mellichamp sits with Wilma Jensen, one of several pipe organ instructors he credits for his 40-year concert career.

High school senior James Mellichamp performed his first solo organ recital at Cornelia United Methodist Church on April 4, 1971.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, he will mark the 40th anniversary of that date with a performance on the Sewell Pipe Organ at Piedmont College in Demorest. The concert is free and the public is invited.

Mellichamp, now Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Piedmont, said his interest in the pipe organ began as a small child, when he would listen to Miriam Pittard Thacker perform at his church in Toccoa.

In the 10th grade, he began formal organ study with Ruth Marsden at Toccoa Falls College. Then in 12th grade, he served as organist at Cornelia United Methodist Church, where his first solo concert took place.

He attended Huntingdon College, where professor Harald Rohlig introduced him to the works of Buxtehude, Bach, Reger and other German composers. Rohlig also helped Mellichamp obtain a scholarship to study for two years in Germany, where he studied under Arno Schoenstedt at the Hochschule fuer Musik and earned his diploma of music. While in Germany, Mellichamp was introduced to organ repertoires from other countries, especially French compositions. He returned to the United States and earned a doctor of music degree from Indiana University, studying with Wilma Jensen, one of the leading organ teachers in the U.S.

Mellichamp joined Piedmont College in 1982 as a professor of music and continues to teach organ for the Music Department.

Since 1975, Mellichamp has conducted pipe organ concerts at some of the leading venues around the world, including the Washington Cathedral, Berlin Cathedral, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

For the upcoming Piedmont concert, Mellichamp said he has selected works that he has never before performed in Demorest, but they are all associated with his former teachers and experiences in some way. "Prelude and Fugue in B Minor" by Johannes Bach was one of his examination pieces he performed in Germany in 1977 during one of his many world-wide tours since playing the organ. He will also perform "Praeludium in G Major" by Nikolaus Bruhns, which was recorded by his former professor Schoenstedt.

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