A silent audience waits in Sursa Performance Hall, all eyes turning toward the lone organ at the front of the room as the lights begin to dim and organist Raul Ramirez takes the stage.

Applause fills the performance hall, but swiftly dies in anticipation as Ramirez takes a seat to break the silence with the clear, full sound of the massive instrument.  

Ramirez’s recital last night marked the beginning of this year’s second-annual Sursa Organ Competition here at Ball State.  

The organ itself is more than just a fancy piano. A combination of buttons, foot pedals and keys all go into creating the vast repertoire of sounds available to the instrument.

“It’s like being a one-man orchestra,” said David Higgs, a Sursa Organ Competition judge. 

Simultaneously interacting with the quantity of moving parts of the organ requires a tremendous amount of dexterity. 

“It’s as complex and challenging as flying a helicopter,” organist judge Huw Lewis said. 

The Sursa Organ Competition was originally organized by Ramirez with the intention of introducing student musicians to professionals and students from institutions outside of Muncie.  

“It was an opportunity to really engage the community and to listen to this instrument,” Ramirez said.

Unlike standard, mass-produced instruments, every organ is unique.  It’s up to the organist to find the correct balance and blend of sound for each organ.  

“It’s like a painter has a palette with different colors on it and you decide to mix them,” said Cherry Rhodes, a judge for the Sursa Organ Competition.  “He’ll go to another organ and mix different colors because maybe the colors he chose here would not sound good on that organ, or maybe that organ doesn’t have them.”

The semi-final round of the competition will be held at 7 p.m. tonight and is free and open to the public. 

On Saturday, competitors will move on to the final round. The first part of the final round is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and is also free to the public, however admission to the second half is $15. 

The first and second place winners of the competition will receive the right to advance to the second round of the V International A.F. Goedicke Organ Competition in Moscow.