Joshua Stafford Officially Named Chautauqua Institution Director of Sacred Music, Organist
Celebrated Musician and Jamestown Native First to Hold Jared Jacobsen Endowed Chair
CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. — Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of Joshua Stafford as the Department of Religion’s Director of Sacred Music, including its organist, and the first to hold the newly established Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist of Chautauqua Institution. Stafford served as Institution organist in an interim capacity during the 2020 summer assembly season.
An internationally renowned and award-winning organist and native of neighboring Jamestown, Stafford succeeds the late Jared Jacobsen, his mentor and teacher, as the principal performer on the historic Massey Memorial Organ. Stafford’s role as Director of Sacred Music will also serve as conductor of the Institution’s two volunteer choirs, the Chautauqua Choir and the Motet Choir.
“The 2020 summer assembly, unusual as it was, made clear that Josh was exactly the right fit for this appointment and for the Chautauqua community. He has quickly and effortlessly endeared himself to our choir members and worshippers, and to lovers of organ music in general,” said the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor. “It is an honor to welcome a musician and faith leader of such talent and renown to our team in an ongoing capacity. With his local roots, Josh has demonstrated a singular reverence for the significance of this role in our community. He is a worthy heir to Jared Jacobsen’s legacy.”
Stafford serves year-round as the Director of Music at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey, where he conducts an RSCM-based program with choirs of boys, girls and adults. In 2016, his meticulous technique, innate yet highly mature musicality, and constant musical engagement compelled the jury of the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition to name him, out of 12 stellar competitors, the Pierre S. du Pont First Prize Winner, earning him a cash award of $40,000.
While growing up in Jamestown, Stafford began piano studies at the age of 6; his interest in the organ was sparked at a Pipe Organ Excursion held by the Chautauqua chapter of AGO he attended as a 10-year-old. Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s longtime organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, became one of several mentors and instructors who guided Stafford’s development as an organist.
“In so many ways Chautauqua is my artistic and religious home, so I am deeply humbled to be able to serve and give back to a community that has given me so much,” Stafford said. “It is a profound honor to succeed Jared in this critical leadership role, and to be the first to hold an endowed position that carries his name and legacy.”
The Jacobsen Chair for the Organist of Chautauqua Institution was established earlier this year through gifts from the Reeve family, led by Gary and Colleen Reeve, and the late Rev. George Tutwiler. It honors the memory of Jacobsen and his service as Chautauqua’s beloved organist, choir director and faith leader from 1996 until his death in September 2019.
During the 2020 season, Stafford performed primarily on the Tallman Tracker Organ in the Hall of Christ, supporting daily ecumenical worship and offering a weekly recital. He also performed on the Massey in support of worship and Sacred Song services in conjunction with the traditional opening and closing Three Taps of the Gavel ceremonies, and for a special concert in Jacobsen’s memory. He will begin his service as Director of Sacred Music and the Jacobsen Organist at the first ecumenical worship service of the 2021 summer assembly season, on June 27.
ABOUT CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION
Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer — and year-round through the CHQ Assembly online platforms — with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue.
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