Staff · February 9, 2023

Announcing Our New Director of Chapel Church Music

Can Olgun, an internationally recognized pianist, composer, educator and researcher, joins the Fifth Avenue staff this week as our first Director of Chapel Church Music.

Can (pronounced “Jon”) is a German-born musician who moved to New York in 2008 to pursue a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music, having been awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He has performed with the Chapel Church music team since this new service was launched in September.

In this newly created position, Can will develop and lead a band of professional musicians and congregational volunteers that will perform contemporary worship literature, original compositions and hymns for the weekly service. He will choose the repertoire for a cohesive set of music each week, supervise the band members, and organize and lead rehearsals.

Can also will compose music that reflects the changing worship themes of a liturgical year. Last fall, Can and Associate Pastor Sarah Speed collaborated on an original piece for the Holy Ground sermon series.

“It was beautiful to see how well the song fit into the atmosphere of the Chapel Church worship experience,” he says. “I am excited that through my various responsibilities as music director, I can actively participate and help to foster and grow Chapel Church and its community.”

“One of the things the staff quickly realized in launching Chapel Church is that we wanted to continue Fifth Avenue’s tradition of high-quality music, which we see so clearly in the 11 am service,” Sarah says. “Can has a vision for Chapel Church that made him an obvious hire. In just his first week, he is already writing music, corralling a list of high-quality musicians and generating a library of music for us to use in the service. I am thrilled to have him on board, and I am confident that with this leadership Chapel Church will only grow.”

As a performing artist, Can has appeared at such landmark venues as the Berliner Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Blue Note, A-Trane Berlin, Jazz Club Unterfahrt Munich and Jazz At Lincoln Center. His most recent project, “Bear and Grin,” expected to be released this year, showcases eight of his original compositions and features Grammy-nominated singer Becca Stevens.

Can previously served as the musical director for an AME Zion congregation on Long Island and was the pianist and musical director for the late actress/singer Suzzanne Douglas. He is a doctoral candidate at the Victoria University of Wellington/New Zealand School of Music, where he conducts research at the intersections of contemporary gospel keyboard playing, artistic research and piano improvisation. 

This summer Can will focus on composing, arranging and recording music for a Chapel Church songbook.

“I am so excited to join Fifth Avenue and the Chapel Church team, and I can’t wait to get to know the congregation. I feel honored to join the music ministry and work alongside Dr. Ryan Jackson and Dr. Patrick Kreeger. I truly believe in the vision of Chapel Church, and I look forward to contributing to and connecting with the community through worship music, group sing-alongs, songwriting workshops and other musical activities.”