News & Announcements

Ben Folds, Ruth Marcus, Cedric Alexander, David Rohde Headline Week Two of the 2020 CHQ Assembly

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. — Chautauqua Institution is proud to announce the program lineup for Week Two of its 2020 season. The week, which begins July 4 and concludes July 11, features presentations released on the brand-new digital collective called CHQ Assembly. Week Two includes renowned guests such as multiplatinum singer-songwriter Ben Folds; expert analyst on 21st-century policing Cedric L. Alexander; Washington Post opinion editor and author Ruth Marcus; and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde.

Chautauqua Institution’s nine-week season features weekday lectures focusing on weekly cultural themes. Week Two examines “Forces Unseen: What Shapes Our Daily Lives,” in which speakers in the 10:45 a.m. EDT Chautauqua Lecture Series program explore how we are influenced in ways we often do not know or understand, by people, algorithms and nature. The 2 p.m. EDT Interfaith Lecture Series is themed “Forces that Shape Our Daily Lives: The Contemporary Search for Spirituality,” tracing the evolution of modern faith traditions, and seeking common ground between adherents and so-called “nones” who don’t identify with a mainstream religion, but of whom many are indeed on a journey seeking spirituality and meaning. 

The Rev. Traci deVon Blackmon will serve as ecumenical guest chaplain for the week, preaching during services at 10:45 a.m. EDT Sunday and at each 9:15 a.m. EDT weekday. Blackmon is the associate general minister of justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ, and senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.

Further details on all programs, including where to access them within the suite of CHQ Assembly platforms, are available at  



Chautauqua Lecture Series: Cedric Alexander will speak from his experience of more than 40 years in law enforcement and public service, including as chief of police in DeKalb County, Georgia, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and a member of President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Interfaith Lecture Series: Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin examines reclaiming the spiritual meaning of Jewish ritual. Salkin produces his award-winning blog, “Martini Judaism: for those who want to be shaken and stirred,” published by the Religion News Service, and serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida.



Chautauqua Lecture Series:  David Rohde presents his latest book, In Deep: The FBI, The CIA, and the Truth about America's “Deep State,” a non-partisan investigation addressing conspiracy theories regarding the existence of a “Deep State” in U.S. government agencies. A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Rohde is executive editor of and a former war correspondent.

Interfaith Lecture Series: Acharya Judith Lief provides a Buddhist guide to encountering mortality. Lief is a Buddhist teacher and author who has been leading workshops on a contemplative approach to death and dying, and on the teachings of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, since 1976. She is also a founding member of The Contemplative Alliance, an affiliate of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.



Chautauqua Lecture Series:  Franklin Leonard details his work as founder and CEO of The Black List, a well-known force in Hollywood for finding the best unproduced screenplays by writers of color and getting those films made. The annual lists have included such Oscar-winning films as “Juno,” “The King’s Speech” and “Argo.” Leonard will also discuss his views on the future of the film industry in light of COVID-19.

Interfaith Lecture Series: Hartford Seminary President Joel N. Lohr presents his research and scholarship, based in his experience as a passionate leader in interreligious relations and higher education. Lohr’s teaching and research has focused on the Bible, specifically the Torah/Pentateuch, as well as Jewish-Christian relations and dialogue, interreligious dialogue, and intercultural competence, diversity and leadership in higher education.



Chautauqua Lecture Series: Scholar Joan Donovan shares her research on internet and media influence and the effects of widespread misinformation. Donovan is the director and lead researcher of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Her work focuses on examining online extremism, media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements.
Interfaith Lecture Series: Gretta Vosper details how “nones” might channel “off-label benefits” of religion, including the improved subjective well-being experienced by many of its adherents. Vosper, a best-selling author, has served as clergy at West Hill United Church in Toronto for over two decades. She supported its transition to becoming a theologically non-exclusive community, the first of its kind within traditional Christianity. 



Chautauqua Lecture Series: Writer Derek Thompson discusses what life might look like after this moment’s most disruptive unseen force, the novel coronavirus. Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes on economics, technology and the media. He is also the author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction,which interprets the invisible factors that capture attention, impact consumer spending, and influence business.

Interfaith Fridays: Chautauqua continues its Interfaith Fridays series, this week featuring the Rev. Willie James Jennings, who teaches in the areas of theology, black church and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School. Jennings is the author of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, which is now a standard text read in colleges, seminaries, and universities. He is currently working on a book focused on the doctrine of creation, tentatively titled Reframing the World.



Aside from daily lectures, Week Two features a variety of artistic offerings across the CHQ Assembly platforms.

5 p.m. EDT Saturday, July 4 • Independence Day Celebration: Conductor Stuart Chafetz and friends continue Chautauqua’s beloved Independence Day tradition. Joined by Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins, Chafetz will provide a performance from his California home. Chafetz is the CSO principal pops conductor; DeSare is a jazz singer, pianist and songwriter; and Jenkins is a singer and Broadway performer. 

4 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6 • Chautauqua Chamber MusicChamberFest Cleveland will perform and join in conversation with the Chautauqua Community. Launched in 2012 by Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinet Franklin Cohen and daughter Diana Cohen, ChamberFest Cleveland focuses on creating thematic programming for unique chamber music experiences in a variety of venues.

5 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6 • Cocktails, Concerts and Conversations: Chautauqua Opera Company featuring Steven Osgood and guest host Raehann Bryce-Davis provide a musical performance and join in conversation. Featured Young Artists include Yazid Gray, Nicole Heinen and Max Potter.

8:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7 • Into the Music with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra: The CSO presents “Swing into the Season with CSO.” Bassist Kieran Hanlon, in his first season as a member of the CSO, joins with CSO Principal Percussionist Brian Kushmaul and SUNY Fredonia Head of Jazz Studies, pianist Nick Weiser. The trio looks forward to sharing an assortment of jazz standards, brought to you in one of the most classic settings for jazz music, the piano, bass, and drums trio. Into the Music with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is a series featuring individual members of the CSO. 

4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 8 • Afternoon Recital: Chautauqua Piano Program Chairs Nicola Melville and Jon Milbauer offer a variety of selections and engage with viewers.

10 a.m. EDT Thursday, July 9 • Weekly Virtual Gallery Tour: Judy Barie, the Susan and John Turben Director of Chautauqua Visual Arts Galleries, takes viewers on a tour of 2020 exhibitions, which can be experienced online at CHQ Visual Arts:

5 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 9 • Cocktails, Concerts and Conversations: Recitals with Rossen, hosted by Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra music director Rossen Milanov, will feature music and conversation with Jiji, an adventurous artist on both acoustic and electric guitar. Jiji plays a wide range of music from traditional and contemporary classical to free improvisation. 

5 p.m. EDT Friday, July 10 • Cocktails, Concerts and Conversations: The multiplatinum singer-songwriter Ben Folds performs and discusses his body of work. Folds has created an enormous body of genre-bending music that includes pop albums with Ben Folds Five, multiple solo albums, and numerous collaborative records. 



3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6Ruth Marcus speaks on the Supreme Court in the annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States. Marcus oversees The Washington Post’s signed opinion content and is a highly acclaimed reporter who has covered the Supreme Court, the White House and Congress. She is the author of the new book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover. This program is produced in partnership with Jamestown’s Robert H. Jackson Center.

3:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7Megan Smith, former chief technology officer of the United States, discusses the (inclusive) future of innovation, work, AI and more as part of the Chautauqua Women’s Club Contemporary Issues Forum. An award-winning entrepreneur, engineer, and tech evangelist, Smith is the CEO and co-founder of shift7, a company working collaboratively on systemic social, environmental and economic problems.

6:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7: Salvador Jiménez-Flores, assistant professor of ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago, will present the season’s first Chautauqua Visual Arts Lecture.

3:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 9Monica Sok details her debut poetry collection A Nail the Evening Hangs On for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. Sok, a Cambodian American poet, is joined in conversation by Sony Ton-Aime, Chautauqua’s director of literary arts, to discuss her new work, which examines the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. 

3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 9: Chautauqua Institution archivist and historian Jon Schmitz explains the origins and meaning of some Chautauqua traditions that have emerged over the years.



Chautauqua’s Mystic Heart Meditation Program offers community members daily meditation sessions at 8 a.m. EDT and 1 p.m. EDT throughout the week.

Chautauqua community members will have further opportunities for entertainment and engagement through the Virtual Porch,, including events such as Brown Bag lectures and webinars with Institution leadership.


A complimentary gate pass will be required to access the grounds during our 2020 season, whether for a day visit or an extended stay. The Main Gate Welcome Center is not open to the public. You must order your passes via phone (716-357-6250) or through our online ticketing portal. Visit All residents and guests must follow New York state regulations regarding social distancing and wearing cloth facecoverings.


About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer 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. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.