News & Announcements

Joshua Stafford Named Interim Chautauqua Institution Organist

Chautauqua Institution today announced the appointment of Joshua Stafford as its organist for the 2020 summer assembly season. In this interim capacity, Stafford, an internationally renowned and award-winning organist and native of neighboring Jamestown, will succeed his mentor and teacher, the late Jared Jacobsen, as the principal performer on the Institution’s historic Massey Memorial Organ. 

“We are so fortunate to have someone of Josh’s talent and stature ready to step into this vital position, already as a member of the Chautauqua family, at a time when our community is healing from Jared’s deeply felt loss,” said the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor.

“This interim year will allow the community to acquaint themselves with Josh and his gifts as a musician and faith leader, and will provide him a more fulsome sense of a role that is so personally and intimately revered in Chautauqua’s daily spiritual life.”

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.

“I’m deeply honored to return home to Chautauqua as steward of such an incredible instrument and tradition, to serve a community and program that have given so much to me as a musician and as a human being,” Stafford said. “It is a privilege to step into a role that my teacher Jared Jacobsen held with such grace and care, to carry forward his legacy. I miss him dearly and am humbled to follow in his footsteps.”

Stafford last performed on the Massey Organ on June 30, as part of a concert by the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and to perform “Largo,” from Handel’s Xerxes, the traditional conclusion to Chautauqua’s Sunday evening Sacred Song Service since 1907. He will begin his service as the Institution’s interim organist at the first ecumenical worship service of the 2020 summer assembly season, on June 28.

Click here to view his full biography.