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Student Spotlight: John Mitchell

A Q&A with organist and DMA student, John Mitchell

Q: What is the degree you are currently pursuing at The University of Houston’s College of the Arts? 

A: Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA) in Organ Performance 

Q: Describe your experience in the arts so far? 

A: This is a seemingly impossible question to answer! I will describe what I am doing now: I work as an organist at two churches here in Houston. As a doctoral student, I aspire to be a great performer as well as to be scholarly in my academics.  

Q: Is there one thing that has surprised you about a career in the arts that you didn’t expect? 

A: Some exciting opportunities have come up in my life that I would have never anticipated. For example, on a choir tour for which I was accompanying a few years ago in Canada, our maestro learned in the eleventh hour before a concert that a Canadian TV channel wanted to broadcast our performance. So, now I can declare that my organ playing was featured on the Salt & Life TV network! I have many more stories similar to this one.   

Q: What artistic accomplishments do you feel most proud of? 

A: Though I have achieved some great awards and honors in my career thus far, my greatest accomplishment has been learning to manage and overcome performance anxiety in tough situations. 

Q: What specific skills have you learned at the McGovern College of the Arts that you find valuable in your current artistic endeavors? 

A: Some music institutions create curricula that are particularly lofty and philosophical, while others are all about artistic craft with minimal scholarly pursuit; UH strikes a great balance of both performance and academic excellence. 

Q: Has there been any press coverage that you would like to share? If so, list links in your answer with any helpful descriptions. 

A: In May, I will be featured in the Diapason Magazine as a winner of the 20 Under 30 Class of 2021. 

In September, I was featured on “Sounds from the Spires” with Dr. Jennifer Pascual of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The complete interview can be heard here: 

Q: What is coming up for you in the future that we should watch for? 

A: By May 2nd, I will have a new organ recording on my YouTube channel. I will give my first recital as a DMA student in September 2021. I have some collaborative performances and other projects with colleagues in the works and will upload those videos to my YouTube channel when they are finished. My big goal for 2021 is to finish some of my compositions, and I hope that I can have them published.  

Q: What advice would you have for incoming students who are focusing on a career in the arts? 

A: There is always someone who is better than you, and there is always someone who is worse than you. Be true to yourself by maximizing your gifts and abilities. 

Quote: I believe I am a great fit here at the CoTA. The studies I pursue at UH are directly linked to my professional working life. I am conquering challenges through my own hard work with encouraging assistance from the faculty and my fellow students. As a TA and graduate student, I hope I am helping other students achieve success at UH as well. 

Links: You can follow my YouTube channel and check out my performances here: 

In 2019, I was published in the Vox Humana journal, edited by UH alumnus Christopher Hohlman 

You can experience my music making in liturgy through online broadcasts from these churches:  

Christ the Servant Lutheran Church: 

St. Philip Presbyterian Church: