A Vessel, Carrying Lanterns, Weathering the Storm

For the first time in history, President Michael Hill gave his annual Three Taps of the Gavel address to an empty amphitheater Sunday, June 28. PHOTOS BY DAVE MUNCH/CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

Editor’s note: These are the prepared remarks for Chautauqua Institution President
Michael E. Hill’s annual Three Taps of the Gavel address, delivered Sunday, June 28, 2020 in an empty Amphitheater as part of CHQ Assembly, prior to the beginning of the Service of Worship and Sermon.

“Good morning, and welcome home to Chautauqua.”


These are the words I have ordinarily used to open our assembly in the first four years I have been fortunate enough to serve as Chautauqua’s president. But this year is anything but ordinary. What you can’t see beyond me is an empty Amphitheater, which can seat up to 4,500 people. Our grounds in Western New York are traditionally populated with between 7,500 to 10,000 people on a day like this. My best estimates are that we have approximately 1,000 people on the grounds for the start of this season. From coast to coast, we are joined by people who are or have been locked in their homes or quarantining in far-off places due to COVID-19. And our nation is in week four of coast-to-coast protests for racial equality, and is facing anew questions about unhealed wounds that date back to our founding.

And yet, today, my “ordinary” greeting of “welcome home to Chautauqua” is still the right one, as we are welcoming you home to what our co-founder Bishop John Heyl Vincent called “the Chautauqua of ideas and inspirations, (which) is not dependent upon the literal and local Chautauqua.”

Tradition is important at Chautauqua. It’s the reason we’re here on this stage today, the same space from which almost every Assembly has been ushered in, and where we hold our principal worship services. Our traditions are replete with important symbols that tell stories about our history and our present role in the world and the yet untapped promise of our future. And symbols have been very much on my mind during this pandemic.

Today, from the opening three taps of a historic gavel, we usher in Chautauqua’s 147th Assembly. So much has happened in our world since the last time this gavel met the aged wood of this lectern, creating that haunting echo that portends the playing of the Largo on the great Massey Organ. This ritual of signifying the passage of time, the mourning of what must come to an end and the promise of something new emerging is a powerful metaphor for today.

And it is this “something new emerging” that makes me tremendously excited to gavel in this Assembly, perhaps one of the most important gatherings we have ever convened.

Tradition is important at Chautauqua. It’s the reason we’re here on this stage today, the same space from which almost every Assembly has been ushered in, and where we hold our principal worship services. Our traditions are replete with important symbols that tell stories about our history and our present role in the world and the yet untapped promise of our future. And symbols have been very much on my mind during this pandemic.

I have three items on top of my desk in the President’s Office at the Colonnade. One is a replica of a sign that sat atop the Resolute Desk in President John F. Kennedy’s White House. It reads “O, God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” The second is a stone square that former Chautauqua Vice President Marty Merkley gave me shortly after I began my tenure as the Institution’s 18th President. Inscribed in the rock is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave his famed “I Hate War” speech in this space. And the third is a 125-year-old rivet salvaged from a steel truss of the old Amphitheater, which was given to me when we opened up this revitalized Amphitheater at the start of my presidency in 2017. Each of these objects hold cues to the work that begins today and provides for us critical questions:

  • What kind of vessel can Chautauqua be in these times of raging waters?
  • Who are today’s prophetic voices that, like Roosevelt, serve as lanterns that light the way to the future we must create?
  • And what is going to hold us together during this time and beyond if we are not only going to come out the other side of this crazy moment in history but come out a society that is better because we weathered the storm and learned from it?

These are the central questions of our 147th Assembly, and this is the journey we begin today.

What kind of vessel can Chautauqua be?

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in Between the World and Me, “My mother and father were always pushing me away from secondhand answers — even the answers they themselves believed. I don’t know that I have ever found any satisfactory answers of my own. But every time I ask it, the question is refined. That is the best of what the old heads meant when they spoke of being ‘politically conscious’ — as much a series of actions as a state of being, a constant questioning, questioning as ritual, questioning as exploration rather than the search for certainty.”

Chautauqua is asking itself an important question: How do we best serve a nation hungry for meaning and answers to complex questions at a time that feels so chaotic? As now-emeritus Kent State University President Beverly Warren asked us at Chautauqua in 2018, how do we “use the wound” to do something that will make our tomorrow a better one?

Today, we officially launch CHQ Assembly, a multi-platform online digital collective that will allow us to share all nine theme weeks of this summer assembly season, our featured lecture speakers, our chaplains of the week, our interfaith speakers, performing arts events, an impressive set of online master and enrichment classes, and a space for Chautauqua Visual Arts that allows people to view exhibitions, explore artwork, and shop in our Gallery Store. And all of that is only hinting at the hundreds of young performing and visual artists who will be studying with us online.

But CHQ Assembly is not a response to COVID-19, and it’s not a one-time initiative meant to bridge us to the other side of this pandemic. While it is certainly helping us to convene this summer, its inspiration comes from our strategic plan, 150 Forward, which asks us to consider how Chautauqua might have an impact beyond our traditional grounds in Western New York and beyond the traditional calendar of our summer assembly season. That plan also asks us to consider how we might harness the power of our platform to do even greater good in the world.

With this launch, we intend to be a part of a year-round dialogue and to use the power of CHQ Assembly, in partnership with others, to amplify voices in a needed national dialogue. We also hope that it allows us, perhaps for the first time in a significant way, to expand the reach of Chautauqua’s programming to audiences that have been for far too long missing from the Chautauqua mix. We seek to realize greater socioeconomic reach, to increase racial diversity and to remove financial and geographic boundaries that have kept our audiences too homogenous for too long.

As a respondent said in one of our community surveys last year, “What stands out for me is a promise that is not yet realized, which is inclusivity and becoming a place that demonstrates the values it espouses.” Those values:

  • Passion for multigenerational and multidisciplinary engagement through the arts, education, recreation, and religion;
  • Belief in the dignity and contributions of all people;
  • Commitment to dialogue to achieve enhanced understanding that leads to positive action;
  • Respect for the serenity, tradition, safety, and ecology of Chautauqua’s historic Grounds and surroundings; and
  • Balance between Chautauqua’s heritage and the need to innovate.

… all come to rest in our new CHQ Assembly. We pledge today to provide a vessel for a more inclusive society to share what’s on its mind, to connect with one another and to remove the barriers that determine who gets to lead, or even be a part of, the conversation. It’s the opportunity to not only expand our programming reach, but more importantly to build a larger, more diverse community of fellow learners. When the community expands, the conversation changes, and the opportunity to learn grows. Chautauqua is the practice of humanity through forum, reflection and art, leading to thoughtful action, and this Assembly is inviting all — not some, but all — of the richness of humanity to play a part.

Who are today’s lanterns, lighting the way toward the future?

The murder of George Floyd on May 29 ignited worldwide protests against a racist and unjust system. Coming amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, the world — and our country especially — has been flooded with renewed questions and calls for reform, for justice, for an end to some lives mattering while others seemingly do not. We enter this summer assembly, as Coates beckons us, needing “a constant questioning, questioning as ritual, questioning as exploration rather than the search for certainty.”

We need to explore:

  • Our global and local response to climate change;
  • Those unseen forces that are influencing the weaving and tearing of the fabric of our nation;
  • The way in which art informs and has the potential to save our democracy;
  • The ethical boundaries of our increasingly valuable and increasingly invasive technology;
  • What we still have to learn from the suffrage movement in our ongoing fights for equality as we mark the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote in this nation;
  • How we rebuild our public education system and whether it can, as Horace Mann once noted, be “the great equalizer;”
  • How notions of “us” and “we” can break through tribalism and isolation to help us bridge our differences;
  • Whether the U.S. Constitution provides a pathway toward securing the “blessings of liberty” for us all and what may need to change to make that so; and
  • What will the world look like over the coming decades, and how we can work together to better prepare for the future.

If Roosevelt used Chautauqua’s platform to remind the nation that we should hate war, we have an obligation to use this platform to give voice to those of this time that can show us a way forward, and I’m grateful to Christiana Figueres, Rabbi David Wolpe, Anna Deavere Smith, Darren Walker, Valarie Kaur, Sir Ken Robinson, Martha Jones, Jon Meacham, Angélique Kidjo, and Rhiannon Giddens, among many others, for being today’s lanterns.

What’s going to hold us together?

Many have questioned how we hold society together when we can’t even be within six feet of one another. Certainly, as an organization, as we shifted toward using CHQ Assembly as our main form of convening this summer, we asked ourselves questions about how to engage authentically when we have historically used the in-person gathering as one of our main ingredients — some might even say it’s the secret sauce of Chautauqua.

So what does it mean that for many Chautauquans this summer they will engage without leaving their homes or home communities? What does it look like to explore these important questions from the confines of our living rooms or on a remote device far from this Amphitheater or any of the other dozens of public gathering spaces on these grounds in Western New York?


We often say when you come to Chautauqua that its power is not in the convening here, but in what you choose to do when you return home. Do you take all you’ve learned here and make a conscious choice to make your own corner of the planet a better place?

Coretta Scott King reminds us that “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Given all that’s happening in the world, given the need for questions that demand exploration, not for certainty’s sake, but because we can and must come together, as we begin this new season, how can we take all we’re about to learn and devote our energies to do the work when our communities need it, need us, most?

This isn’t a “lost” summer, but a summer when we’re called to do more. The way we embrace fellow Chautauquans on the Plaza is how we should embrace those wherever we find ourselves this summer. This summer we don’t come to Chautauqua, but carry the spirit of Chautauqua throughout a world that needs it. And that spirit means opening ourselves up to learning, to declaring that “I have more work to do.” This summer must unite the name Chautauqua with the synonym of “active citizenry.” Because, when the world needs it most, we’re reminded that Chautauqua can, and must always be, far more than a place.

As I stare out into the Amphitheater today, there’s something powerful about knowing that while the benches may be empty, I look out into an amplified community, the heart of Chautauqua that gathers today to learn together, to worship together, and that makes a commitment to make the world a better place because of it.

That’s what those objects on my desk remind me of as we begin this assembly.

Yes, the sea is so great right now. But our charge is not to despair, but to be a vessel of hope.

Yes, the world sometimes feels as if it is at war. But we have modern-day prophets to serve as lanterns, showing us a way to a better tomorrow.

Yes, this tumultuous time has many feeling disjointed and insecure. But like that rivet that held our Amphitheater together, this Chautauqua ideal that was birthed almost 150 years ago was forged in harsh conditions. It has survived financial crises, societal upheaval, natural disasters and acts of terrorism. It can sustain the winds of a pandemic. We are anchored securely in our convictions to deploy the best in human values into the world.

When the rain has subsided, when the clouds roll away and reveal the sunrise of a new day, the daylight will show that Chautauquans never retreated, that Chautauqua never went away, not for even a minute. We found new ways when we were told the old ones were off-limits. We asked unrelenting questions, not always to reach answers, but to get closer to them. And we did that from all over the world, bringing the questions and a call to action to wherever we call home.

It is that exploration of humanity — with all its accomplishments and all its wounds – that commences at Chautauqua in this 147th Assembly. A pandemic could not keep us from that. Weeks of protests against injustice remind us we have too much important work left to do. So let’s get to it.

I tap the gavel three times …

Chautauqua 2020 has begun.

“I hope he’d be proud”: Jacobsen Memorial Concert to honor organist’s legacy

Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music at Chautauqua Institution, died Aug. 27, 2019 in a car crash. Here, Jacobsen speaks at the beginning of the “In Remembrance” service on August 11, 2019. Jacobsen created the annual service in 2010. MHARI SHAW/DAILY FILE PHOTO

At a certain point in life, you hit a point where you think you’ve encountered every kind of person there is — and there will always be certain kinds of people who stand out. 

There’s one kind of person especially who seems to be able to project an almost incandescent love for their profession and for the people around them, and who possess a purity of character which elevates and uplifts entire communities. 

For many Chautauquans, Jared Jacobsen was exactly this kind of person. 

As Chautauqua Institution’s longtime organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, Jacobsen served as the operator and guardian of the Massey Memorial Organ located in the Amphitheater and the Tallman Tracker mechanical-action organ in the Hall of Christ, in addition to leading the Motet and Chautauqua Choirs.

On Aug. 27, 2019, Jacobsen died suddenly in a car crash, shortly after completing his 65th summer at Chautauqua. Two days prior, in his final Sacred Song Service of the 2019 season — his final “Largo” on the Massey — he joined Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill in declaring “Camp Meeting is Over,” before Hill’s closing Three Taps of the Gavel. Jacobsen was 70.

“Chautauqua was in his blood, it was in his DNA,” said the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor. “Much of what he did here was just because he wanted to do it, not because it was part of what he had been asked to do.”

At 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, June 28, on CHQ Assembly, Robinson and Joshua Stafford, Chautauqua’s interim organist, will present a virtual memorial concert for Jacobsen for the first Sacred Song Service of the 2020 season — currently the only such service scheduled for the summer. 

“When I was a kid, I always dreamed that maybe someday I’d get to be the Chautauqua organist,” Stafford said. “This is not the way I imagined it happening. I feel a lot of pressure, but I feel like it’s very much the right thing to be able to continue on Jared’s legacy here.” 

Stafford said the program for the concert will include pieces Jacobsen often played and pieces Stafford studied with him, from composers like J.S. Bach, George Gershwin and George Thalben-Ball.

“I met Jared when I was 10, when I first started playing the organ,” Stafford said. “We came to Chautauqua for a Wednesday concert, and I was totally blown away. Eventually, he became my organ teacher for the summer. I started to occasionally play for some of the Sunday organ tours here, and Jared would let me come and sit on the bench with him at the Sacred Song Services.”

The memorial concert is more than just music, according to Stafford — it’s about mending the wounds caused by loss.

“I hope that in being here, I can be helpful in the healing that needs to go on with this sudden and tragic loss,” he said. “Especially as somebody who’s been around Chautauqua for a long time and who was a protege of Jared’s.”

Robinson said that that’s exactly why Stafford’s work is so important. 

“In terms of the concert, I think he will be very reminiscent of Jared,” Robinson said. “He’ll do verbal introductions to each of the pieces. Jared was always a great teacher, and he’d offer little-known facts before he’d play them. Josh will do that as well.”

Stafford said the last time he saw Jacobsen was at one of the first Sacred Song Services of the 2019 season, when Jacobsen asked Stafford to play George Frideric Handel’s postlude “Largo” — an aria from Xerxes that was one of Jacobsen’s favorites, as well as a mainstay of Sacred Song Services at Chautauqua since the first Massey program in 1907. Jacobsen on several occasions called “Largo” “the closest thing (at Chautauqua) that we have to a sacred relic.”

“It was a huge honor for anyone other than the Chautauqua organist to get to do that,” Stafford said. “I remember Jared came over and gave me a big hug at the end of it, and Gene Robinson came over, too, and said: ‘The two of you just make me weep.’ It was one of those moments that was special at the time, but I didn’t know going forward just how special it would be. That was the last day I saw Jared.”

Stafford will play recitals through CHQ Assembly every Wednesday on the Tallman Tracker Organ in the Hall of Christ to be broadcast following the 10:45 a.m. morning lectures, along with providing the music for the rest of the season’s ecumenical and interfaith worship services, at 10:45 a.m. EDT Sundays and 9:15 EDT weekdays, also on the Tallman.

“I hope he’d be proud,” Stafford said.

Tradition Transformed: Chautauqua Theater Company tackles the virtual world

Bratton Theater
With Chautauqua Institution suspending in-person programming for the 2020 season, Chautauqua Theater Company has made transformations to their programs that adapt the experience of the theater for a remote audience. While there will be no program this summer in Bratton Theater, Chautauquans can experience the work and talent of conservatory members as part of CHQ Assembly. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

For more than 100 years, theater has played an integral role in the living and breathing culture of Chautauqua Institution. Since its founding in 1983, Chautauqua Theater Company has carried on a rich tradition of internationally acclaimed theater professionals and up-and-coming students collaborating on the production and performance of classic, contemporary and new plays each and every season.

For nearly four decades, CTC’s plays and productions have been immersive in-person experiences, transporting audiences from their seats in Bratton Theater into the worlds woven onstage by actors and set designers. Now, in a time of uncertainty and isolation, with the Institution suspending in-person programming for the 2020 season, CTC has made transformations to their programs that adapt the experience of the theater for a remote audience.

“The current situation has necessitated that we change, and what’s wonderful about that is when you get a group of artists like our conservatory, creativity follows that,” said CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba. “We have been really delighted and fortunate to have that creative spirit in a time of things being shut down.”

In a typical season, the CTC has a conservatory of about 19 actors and directing and design fellows, but this year has accepted 33, including one conservatory member “commuting” from London. In the past, much of the focus of the program has been producing performances; now, this focus has shifted to put more of an emphasis on education and collaboration.

The annual New Play Workshops have been extended online, and additional classes which focus on topics such as webcasting and various other individual production skills have been added into the program.

“We are trying in many ways to embrace the spirit of what we always do, which is to focus on what the playwright is looking for within the play,” Borba said. “While we also understand that the rules have changed, and sometimes that’s to our benefit.”

CTC is still finalizing what the season will look like for audience members, and is experimenting with various virtual platforms, including a potential livestream performance on CHQ Assembly. 

Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy is excited about the promise of keeping traditions alive in a new way, citing the new Cocktails and Conversations program, which emulates the front porch experience remotely. 

One such tradition is the annual Hello Chautauqua performance, where CTC conservatory members introduce themselves to members of the community through a series of performances and monologues, kicking off the season of performances. The CTC opted this year to continue the tradition virtually, ensuring that performers still connect with the community and are given a platform to introduce their art. The performance will go live on the Virtual Porch at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 3.

“It’s a crazy time to be making art in our world right now,” Corporandy said. “But there are things that we’re going to learn that will inform us going forward, and I think that’s really exciting.”

Though much of the program has yet to be finalized, both Corporandy and Borba said that what they have seen so far has exceeded their expectations, and that they have enjoyed seeing familiarity joined with innovation as they work with members to create. 

“I’m really excited about how each program will comfort and surprise me at the same time,” Corporandy said.

The CTC is one of the only theater companies in the country that remains operating, and Borba is thankful for the opportunity to continue creating. 

“I’m most excited about being able to produce at a time when everything else has shut down,” he said. “We have the ability to do this, so we will.”

Borba said the upcoming season is “really about keeping people engaged, and allowing a space for people to create and interact. We are still able to create work with a very engaged, diverse and talented group of artists.”

Chautauqua Cinema Goes Virtual

Cyclists pass the Chautauqua Cinema as patrons line up outside on Aug. 6, 2017. The Cinema is dark this summer, as Chautauqua Institution suspended in-person programming for the 2020 season, but the Cinema’s proprietor, Billy Schmidt, has launched a movie rental service for Chautauquans to stream selected films into their homes. OLIVIA SUN/DAILY FILE PHOTO

In 2007, the Chautauqua Cinema showed filmmaker Dan Karslake’s “For The Bible Tells Me So,” the first film recorded with digital technology — as opposed to 35mm film — to be shown in the venue. In 2020, the staff chose Karslake’s follow-up, “For They Know Not What They Do,” as one of the first films the Cinema streamed exclusively online. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order in March to close all non-essential business to slow the spread of COVID-19, leaving the staff at the Cinema to shut their doors for the Chautauqua Institution’s 2020 season. Instead of halting all operations for the summer, Cinema proprietor Billy Schmidt chose to make select films available for streaming on the business’ website

“I’m glad to be able to share some great movies with some people, even if I can’t open the doors,” Schmidt said. “It helps us to keep our relationships alive.”

Viewers can visit the Cinema’s website and “buy tickets” to rent selected films from the independent theatrical and home video distributor First Run Features. The Cinema generates revenue every time a film is streamed through their unique link. 

Schmidt acknowledged that at-home moviegoers are flooded with streaming options, from iTunes to Amazon Prime Video. He said that despite the already-established streaming competition, there is hope for small and independent movie theaters to learn and adapt for a new era.

“The finances of single-screen art-house cinemas worldwide (have been) heading into the toilet over the last decade for a lot of reasons. I think a large part of it is how much people are going to streaming,” Schmidt said. “I’m really hoping this is an opportunity to reconstruct a plan moving forward that’s sustainable.”

Movie theaters across the country could utilize this tool for revenue in slow-business months. For the Chautauqua Cinema, this is a way Schmidt could offer content to the community during the Institution’s off-season. 

Renting movies individually from the Cinema may be costlier for the viewer than a streaming service subscription, but Schmidt said he sees the value. By choosing to stream through the Cinema’s website, which offers a selection tailored to the interests of the community, Schmidt said that Chautauquans can, in their own way, continue to be a supportive part of that community even if they’re not physically on the grounds. 

“If I’m offering a title, and you have the choice of watching it through my link or someone else’s, (and you choose our link,) you’re supporting the Cinema,” Schmidt said. “I’m also only selecting titles for streaming that I’m really behind. I’m selecting what I think is worth the time, what I think is valuable. I’m not just putting stuff up because I can.”

To decide what is featured at the Cinema, Schmidt said he has always put the Chautauqua community’s interests at the forefront — that same care went into choosing what to make available online. Since assuming proprietorship from his father in 2009, Schmidt has looked for films that allow the audience to experience different points of view, whether it’s in terms of place, time or character.

Schmidt said that he hopes to re-open the physical Cinema by the end of the season, but there are no definite plans. That decision will depend on New York state policy and public safety. 

New York state has been emerging from the pandemic shutdown in a four-phase system. Movie theaters were set to open in the upcoming fourth and final stage. But, in a news conference Tuesday, June 23, New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that theaters, gyms and malls may have to remain closed indefinitely.  

Once state regulations allow theaters to resume operation, patrons and business owners alike will likely have to change their practices. Company policy for theaters nationally may include operating at partial capacity, frequent sanitization of seating, limiting the number of showtimes, restricted concessions service, and a mandatory mask policy. Initially, movie-goers may bypass the traditional theaters altogether for at-home streaming or drive-in theaters, where these rules do not apply.

Experts may have differing opinions, but Derek Long, an assistant professor of media and cinema studies at the University of Illinois, thinks that despite these roadblocks, the cinema business will likely persevere, given that the industry is historically resilient and has withstood everything from financial depressions to technological shifts. Long attributed this endurance to the desire for the movie-going experience.

Schmidt said that he treasures the routine of movie-going and the sense of community it creates, and hopes to keep that experience alive after the pandemic.

“It’s a labor of love for me,” Schmidt said. “I’m not in this to make a buck. I’m in this to keep this thing alive that matters to me so much. I hope (for the Cinema) to be a place where people can remember how we used to go to movies, and why that was awesome.”

History in the making underpins Interfaith Lecture Series

As the Department of Religion’s programming moves online for the 2020 season, the crowds of people in the Hall of Philosophy and the grove will be absent this year; still, department leadership aims to create a robust experience on CHQ Assembly, with Interfaith Lecture Series theme that grapple with the issues of our time. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

Human rights. Public health. Climate change. The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated and exposed these issues.

“(The pandemic) shines a spotlight on important problems that we have all been ignoring,” said Maureen Rovegno, director of religion at Chautauqua Institution. Rovegno organizes speakers for the Department of Religion’s Interfaith Lecture Series, and she cited renewed attention to the climate crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement as examples.

Interfaith lecturers, according to Rovegno, often come from five different focuses (religious, theological, spiritual, ethical and humanitarian) and take an “angle of vision” based on the corresponding theme of the morning lectures. This season, Chautauqua’s Interfaith Lecture Series aims to shed light on the multiple, major historic events the world is facing through its weekly themes.

“It’s hard to imagine that any of our lectures would be the same if COVID-19 or Black Lives Matter (weren’t happening),” said Institution Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor Gene Robinson.

Robinson said that while they did not call confirmed speakers and ask them to realign their discussions, he expects lecture content to reflect what’s happening in the moment because of the caliber of the speakers selected. Topics that have been “put off” will be front and center.

“With climate change, it is always unfortunately pushed to the bottom of the list,” Robinson said. “You can’t put off COVID. You can’t put off responding to Black men being killed.”

The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas will kick off Week One as the chaplain-in-residence at 10:45 a.m. EDT Sunday, June 28, on CHQ Assembly. While Bullitt-Jonas will be preaching at the 9:15 a.m. EDT morning devotionals every weekday and not participating the Interfaith Lecture Series, Robinson — who counts Bullitt-Jonas as a mentor — said her background as a climate activist aligns with Week One’s climate change focus, and will tie the week together from the start.

As the Chautauqua Lecture Series focuses on “Climate Change: Prioritizing Our Global and Local Response,” at 2 p.m. EDT every week day, Week One’s interfaith lecturers will shift into the theme of “Faith to Save the Earth,” answering the question of how faith can inform how people understand their role in protecting the environment.

“With faith traditions, the onus is put on understanding creation, and what we need to do and how to preserve creation,” Rovegno said.

Interfaith lecture speakers in Week One will answer these questions from various perspectives.

Randolph Haluza-DeLay’s work focuses on history based on multiple Christian denominations. Rabbi Nate DeGroot leads Hazon, the first international Jewish environmental organization. Beth Roach co-founded the Alliance of Native Seedkeepers.

Jim Antal represents the United Church of Christ (UCC) as its president and as a climate justice adviser to the UCC’s general minister. And on the first Interfaith Friday of the season, religious naturalist Michael Hogue will take CHQ Assembly’s virtual stage.

Week Two broadly focuses on “Forces Unseen: What Shapes Our Daily Lives.” Rovegno said forces like the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and, in particular, a need for moral leadership currently shape American life.

The interfaith platform takes the idea of the weekly theme one step further with “Forces that Shape Our Daily Lives: The Contemporary Search for Spirituality.”

“In my 73 years, I have never seen something affect every person in the world at a given moment,” Robinson said. “I think all of us are trying to put the (moment) we’re living in into a spiritual context, and Week Two and Three do this.”

Speakers during Week Two represent Judaism, Buddhism, interfaith perspectives and “nones,” a growing group of atheists and agnostics who don’t identify with a specific religion but crave the support and spirituality that an organized religion provides.

Willie James Jennings, an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale University Divinity School, will speak from an Evangelical Christian perspective on Interfaith Friday in Week Two. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race is one of his many publications, including a book coming out this year titled After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging.

The “Art and Democracy” overarching Week Three theme spins into “Art: A Glimpse into the Divine” for the Interfaith Lecture Series.

“We can experience the divine through art,” Rovegno said. “It can penetrate the spirit.”

Week Three mixes multiple forms of art and theology, featuring art historian Ori Soltes; Jewish multimedia artist David Moss; a four-time Grammy winning Christian cellist — whose performances, Rovegno said, are “a spiritual experience in itself” — named Eugene Friesen; and artist Azzah Sultan, who draws on her experiences as a Muslim immigrant as well as family lineage traditions in her work.

For Week Three’s Interfaith Friday, Eryl and Wayman Kubicka will describe creation from the perspective of Buddhism, which Rovegno said is notable because Buddhist teachings do not emphasize creation to the same degree as other religions. Wayman Kubicka will also lead various Mystic Heart Meditations throughout the season.

Week Four focuses on “The Ethics of Tech: Scientific, Corporate and Personal Responsibility,” and 2 p.m. lectures will answer how “Ethics in a Technologically Transforming World?” can coexist.

Interfaith lectures for Week Four kick off with Gerard Magill, an expert in healthcare ethics who serves on the board of the Carl G. Grefenstette Center for Ethics in Science, Technology, and Law at Duquesne University.

He is followed by Jason Thacker, who is the research chair for technology ethics within the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for Southern Baptists, and a to-be-announced speaker on Wednesday, July 22. Thursday, July 23, features Noreen Herzfeld, who explores prospects for AI, ethical issues in technology, and Islam, in addition to her roles as a Nicholas and Bernice Reuter Professor of Science and Religion at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.

On Interfaith Friday, Lisa Sharon Harper will speak from her experience as a theologian focused on reformation in the church across five continents, from Ferguson and Charlottesville in the United States to South Africa, Brazil, Australia and Ireland.

To a degree, Robinson said everyone is experiencing technology’s influence on daily life in real time, and the recent expansion of technology use for the sake of social distancing is happening inside and outside Chautauqua.

“Maureen and I did not go to seminary to learn about technology,” Robinson said. “Yet here we are, using it every hour of every day.”

While COVID-19 has forced Chautauqua Institution’s season online, it has also expanded the significance of its daily discussions. 

“What we say (in interfaith lectures) is very pertinent to living our lives,” Rovegno said. “It’s informative, but meant to teach us how to live in the best way possible.”

School of Music adapts to online platform focusing on career development, connections

The School of Music practice shacks at Chautauqua Institution will be quiet this year, as students in the instrumental, piano and voice programs take their learning — and performances — online through the CHQ Assembly. DAVE MUNCH/CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION

The Chautauqua experience will look different this summer, not least of all for students in the School of Music, who in a traditional season would be settling into dorms and rehearsing together for the first time this week. But one thing for those students will remain unchanged: they are still in for a summer of enrichment through training, mentorship and performances.

In an effort to keep the public arts alive while public life is on lockdown, Chautauqua Institution’s School of Music will present a four-week intensive online program starting July 13. The program is a part of the CHQ Assembly and will be featured weekly on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. 

Timothy Muffitt, music director of the Music School Festival Orchestra, said the programming is set to be a combination of “traditions and exploration.”

“We want to ensure the virtual component is an asset and not a liability,” Muffitt said. “We are not just going to try to recreate what we do when we are on the grounds in a 2D form — that would be a poor substitute. So, what we are doing is combining online assets with the history and traditions we know, and making something that is extraordinary all on its own.” 

According to Sarah Malinoski-Umberger, manager of the Chautauqua Schools of Performing and Visual Arts, student input was prioritized in what she called the “reprogramming process.” 

“Since we had to cut out so much of our regular programming and live components, we really tried to focus on career development and enrichment for this season,” Malinoski-Umberger said. “We sent out a survey to ask what topics they were most interested in, because this summer is really focused on the students and their needs.”

Each week is built around a different component of artist development. Muffitt said the first theme, in Chautauqua’s Week Three, is aptly named “Innovation and the 21st Century Musician.” 

“That first theme is focused on online preparations, online recitals and online teaching, simply because that’s the way the world is right now,” Muffitt said. “Because it is virtual, we can connect our students with people that they otherwise would have never been able to connect with to teach them these real-world lessons. That’s special.” 

Subsequent themes include “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Today’s Professional,” “Career Enhancement and Development” and “Conversations with CHQ Distinguished Alumni and Faculty.”

Intertwined with the weekly themes is a new Innovation and Career Advancement series delivered through CHQ Assembly’s Online Classroom. The seminars, delivered by a variety of industry leaders and alumni, will explore innovation, career development and enhancement and wellness. According to Malinoski-Umberger, this series will help the school maintain some of their “unique elements of study,” such as the value of cross-disciplinary work.

“During the third week about career development, we plan to discuss the importance of expanding your career options — because you can’t just plan on being a musician anymore,” she said. “Just look at what is happening in the industry during the pandemic, with furloughs and cuts — you need to have a plan B and C to rely on if you need to. We hope to give them that.”  

While the programming details are vastly different from previous seasons, Muffitt said Chautauquans will still be able to attend masterclasses for each program — Instrumental, Voice and Piano — via livestream on CHQ Assembly. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, each department will also feature livestreamed recitals. 

“Those masterclasses and recitals will be exactly what our returning Chautauquans are used to seeing — just from their couch this time around,” Malinoski-Umberger said.

In addition, Muffitt said the programs still plan to provide students with weekly lessons and coachings with resident faculty. There will also be private weekly studio classes and audition seminars.

Even with every new addition and workaround, Malinoski-Umberger and Muffitt said nothing can replace the sounds of a summer of music on the grounds. Therefore, all current students have been invited back for the 2021 season.

“We really want to keep a sense of community and the close interactions between the faculty and students, which I think is what makes our program so unique,” Malinoski-Umberger said. “I think it’s important to give them the opportunity to experience everything we have to offer.”

Malinoski-Umberger is optimistic that next season will bring the in-person features she has already begun to miss, but believes with the students’ unprecedented ability to focus on professional development, the digital space is already offering opportunities of its own.

Regardless of whether students sharpen their skills in McKnight Hall or live from their bedrooms, she said “they still own it — every note.”

“I am looking forward to giving the students something to work toward and with that, a bit of hope,” Malinoski-Umberger said. “I know a lot of them are really upset, obviously, because there is so much uncertainty. I am hoping that for at least those four weeks, we can come together and make something beautiful. I think, more than ever, we all need that right now.”

‘Our silver lining’: CHQ Assembly brings the 2020 season to life online


Creating an online space for Chautauqua Institution’s programming to live beyond its summer seasons was always a part of Emily Morris’ 2020 plan. However, her timeline to complete it stretched as far as 18 months. With a newfound sense of urgency, community input and countless hours of work from Institution staff, the vision came to life in three.

“Having this time to focus on it and nothing else, because we can’t do much else, I think has ultimately been a gift to this initiative,” said Morris, vice president of marketing and communications and chief brand officer at Chautauqua Institution. “It is difficult to say anything that has been happening for the past four months is a gift. Perhaps this is our silving lining.”

Objective Two in the Institution’s strategic plan, 150 Forward, adopted last spring, called for expanding “Chautauqua’s convening authority year-round to broaden its impact beyond the summer assembly season.” That included, in 150 Forward, “developing platforms and venues to build upon and fully leverage summer assembly content,” among other areas of focus. On May 1, the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees unanimously decided to suspend any in-person programs on the grounds for the 2020 season. That, coupled with the directive in 150 Forward, meant the thousands of events that staff had spent nine months planning had to be moved online, or moved aside, in a matter of weeks. The result is CHQ Assembly.

CHQ Assembly, the digital expression of the Institution, is composed of five “digital properties” where video content, online conversations, master and enrichment classes, and virtual experiences will be presented for the 2020 season. The properties can be accessed from desktop, mobile and TV streaming devices and were designed to serve as a place to “share content, engage, learn, and experience the arts,” Morris said.  

“The themes of the properties are interconnected, while also embodying the meaning of ‘assembly’ completely, creating an assembly of digital products that can serve as a proxy for the experience that we might have on the grounds under normal conditions,” Morris said.

Video Platform

The CHQ Assembly Video Platform, or “the hub,” as staff have been calling it, is where Chautauquans will find live and recorded lectures, performances and sermons. 

For the 10:45 a.m. EDT Chautauqua Lecture Series, Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said weekly themes such as “The Ethics of Tech: Scientific, Corporate and Personal Responsibility,” “Rebuilding Public Education” and “The Science of Us,” have new “focus and urgency during these times.”

“In conversations with our speakers, we are very much thinking together on how to pivot the conversation when necessary, or to put issues within the context of COVID-19 or demonstrations around the country calling for our collective efforts to end systemic racism,” Ewalt said. 

From a production standpoint, Ewalt said he recognized the need to pre-record lectures when possible to ensure they are uninterrupted by internet issues or other complications. Lectures, some with a conversation format, will be delivered live at 10:45 a.m EDT. Lectures will also include a live, interactive Q-and-A period. 

“With a few exceptions, most of our speakers have been enthusiastic to participate in 2020’s CHQ Assembly, particularly with our focus on community dialogue, recognizing the urgency of these conversations and that, in pursuit of our mission, Chautauqua could not go silent this summer,” Ewalt said.

Maureen Rovegno, director of the Department of Religion, said the Interfaith Lecture Series are being pre-recorded “as late as possible” to guarantee the conversation “includes all parts of the moment we’re in.”

“It is not only appropriate, it is critical that we have our speakers address the current issues facing our world,” Rovegno said. “The issues are painful, but they are transforming. Our lecturers have their fingers on the pulse of what our society has needed even before the current context evolved.”

Each lecture will begin with a video introduction from Rovegno or Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor. After the pre-recorded lecture plays, Rovegno or Robinson will lead a live Q-and-A session with the speaker. Every scheduled Interfaith Lecture Series speaker agreed to participate in the virtual adaptation. 

Selected lectures from previous seasons will also be available for viewing, including some previously unreleased content, according to Morris. 

Logistically, Morris was concerned a digital platform would not support a parallel expression of the arts. Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts Deborah Sunya Moore said with the addition of “personal and educational conversations,” it will flourish. 

“It is so easy to think about everything we cannot do this summer because we can’t be live, playing music,” Moore said. “When we go online, what is it that we can do online that we cannot easily do live? What we can easily do online is shorten the concerts and leave room for conversation where we can let everybody engage almost directly with the artist.” 

Virtual Porch

The next property is the Virtual Porch, which will house space for engagement and conversation. These conversations will take place daily and, just as they would on the grounds, there will be several conversations taking place on multiple porches simultaneously. There is no fee for attending Virtual Porch events and no limit to the number of events in which one can participate. 

According to Morris, the Virtual Porch has already sparked new conversations. On Saturday mornings, starting July 4, Ewalt, Moore and Robinson will join for “Coffee and Conversations” to go over the highlights and takeaways from the past week’s theme and programs.

“These conversations will allow us to examine the interconnectedness that we may not have seen as it was happening, but can connect now that it has happened,” Morris said. “We can also learn what this work we just accomplished calls us to do moving forward. We haven’t had this opportunity before, because we simply didn’t have the time.” 

Online Classroom

Next is the Online Classroom. According to Morris, this is where Chautauqua’s Special Studies will be “reinvented.” These master and enrichment classes will allow for a deeper dive into theme-related topics each week and are designed to broaden “general knowledge and creative abilities.” Anyone can browse the online classroom catalog at any time, but an account is required to register for a class.

Giving credit where credit is due, Morris said Chautauqua’s Department of Information Technology led a bulk of this particular project, along with Karen Schiavone, manager of community education. 

“They were building an online classroom at a time when people were having absolutely horrible online learning experiences because they were forced into them,” Morris said. “It was important that our team found a system that was not only seamless and easy, but also enriching.”

After sorting through dozens of choices, a learning management system for the Online Classroom was selected and implemented in just 40 days. Morris said that number is “symbolic.”

“Some really important things, at least in Christian biblical history, happened in 40 days,” she said. “I think that was God’s way of reminding us that there was some divine intervention in this massive undertaking.” 

Chautauqua Visual Arts and Poetry Makerspace

Following the classroom is Chautauqua Visual Arts. This space will offer programs from the School of Art, as well as online gallery tours, exhibitions and an online gallery store. Last is the Poetry Makerspace, where the literary arts will continue to “innovate through the invitational art of poetry.” 

“It is always going to be the most wholesome in the summer months when we are running the summer assembly and have all of those wonderful programs to share,” Morris said. “Just like any other TV series that you watch, there is a seasonality to them. CHQ Assembly will have that seasonality, but it will have a life all year round.”

Because it is so new, Morris is still uncertain of what CHQ Assembly will become. She does know what it isn’t. It is not perfect, nor will it ever be. It is also not a “replacement” for the physical experience, which was not and will never be the intent. 

In combining “CHQ,” the “hashtag and digital name for Chautauqua,” with “assembly,” the “very roots and purpose of the Institution’s founding,” Morris said the platform was named in honor of the role it is meant to serve as a middle ground for the Institution’s past and future — a middle ground “that serves us all.” 

“CHQ Assembly is enabling us to bring our mission to a much broader audience across the country and around the world,” Morris said. “In that, it enables us to pursue an aspiration that this organization has had for some time, which is to serve a more diverse constituency. That is important work and this is the time to do it.”

Virtual Writers’ Festival Panel keeps Chautauqua tradition alive, kicks off virtual literary arts season

Screen Shot 2020-06-26 at 7.52.47 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has indelibly changed the way literature in both the United States and the world is consumed, created and curated. 

And though this year’s Chautauqua Writers’ Festival had been canceled due to the pandemic, the spirit of the festival and its commitment to literary arts was kept alive this past week by an online webinar featuring its faculty and director. 

On Wednesday, June 24, a Zoom panel of the 2020 — now the 2021 — Writers’ Festival faculty convened along with Festival Director Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Chautauqua Director of Literary Arts Sony Ton-Aime to discuss “Here in the After: Writing Toward (More) Uncertain Futures.” This conversation was part of the festival’s theme for both 2020 and 2021, “Personal Geographies.”

“The festival, its faculty and its ethos is committed to the urgent connections — even more urgent now than ever before — between the political, the personal and the writing,” Bertram said at the beginning of the discussion. “We don’t see those connections as inseparable.” 

The panel consisted of Bertram and the authors Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Martha Collins, Porochista Khakpour, Jess Row and Marie Myung-Ok Lee. 

Though the panel was originally planned to solely focus on the pandemic and its effects, from the very beginning of the webinar, Bertram, author of Travesty Generator, said that the “new urgencies” of social unrest and systemic racism would form the basis for panel discussion.

After each faculty member was given a chance to read excerpts from their work, Bertram prompted the group of writers with a question on the common thread they saw as linking all of their work: inheritance.

“What are some of the lessons or inheritances that are linked to this moment for you as writers, and how do — or how must — our writing practices change in response to this?” Bertram asked the panel. 

Poet Collins, author of Because What Else Could I Do, went first, referencing her experience of discovering that a story her grandfather had told her about witnessing a hanging in early 20th century Illinois was, in actuality, not a hanging at all. It was a lynching. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to inherit the past that they have, and I think white people particularly are disinclined to do that because we don’t think too much about it,” said Collins. 

But for Lee, author of the forthcoming novel The Evening Hero, part of her inheritance is the upheaval that went on in the country her parents came from.

“Upheaval is just life,” she said. “And here, it’s been one of those things where people seem amazed that something is happening.”

From there, Bertram shifted the discussion to whether or not it was possible for creative writing classrooms to be the sites of antiracist instruction.

“It’s very difficult for me to envision writing in a vacuum, as well as teaching in a vacuum,” said Hernandez Castillo, an immigration advocate and author of the memoir Children of the Land, “as if I am not in front of the class, not gendered, not raced, not received by my students with all the identities that I have. It’s difficult to see that that doesn’t play a factor in what I teach, how I teach, and how what I teach is received.” 

Khakpour — a novelist, memoirist and literary criticism columnist for The Virginia Quarterly Review — concurred, and said that “I have been on so many faculties at so many liberal arts colleges where I am the only person of color.”

“We always provide these colleges with antiracist syllabi,” she said. “I now just think that the ignorance is absolutely willful. If you’re a white professor who doesn’t have a diverse syllabus, you’re not ignorant, you’re willfully ignorant. I will absolutely not accept it, I will absolutely not dialogue with you, and it is actually my duty to help get you fired.”

And yet, according to Row, there’s still the possibility for hope.

“The conversation in the world of creative writing has changed dramatically in the last few decades,” said Row, author of the novel Your Face in Mine. “It’s no longer uncommon to hear people talk about antiracist creative writing pedagogy. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of resistance and pushback, but I’m hoping that the next step is for structures and institutions to change.”

The panel represents the first literary arts event of the 2020 season, a season which will be almost entirely online at the Virtual Porch and CHQ Assembly.

“We’re moving almost all of our programs online,” said Ton-Aime, Chautauqua’s director of literary arts and author of the poetry chapbook LaWomann. “They can be accessed through the CHQ Assembly app and through the Virtual Porch. One of our big programs is the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle presentations, which happen every Thursday.” 

The vertical theme for the 2020 CLSC season theme is “This Land,” and Ton-Aime said that “each book chosen as a CLSC selection in 2020 — fiction, poetry, memoir, history, biography, science — will explore ‘this land’ and other lands.”

Ton-Aime, who began his position at the Institution in January, said that while the pandemic has changed the way programming will be done this summer, “we’re going to be reaching towards people through computers and through screens.”

“We know how important it is for us to effectively manage the attention of our audiences,” Ton-Aime said. “So, we’ve changed the CLSC presentations to be 15-minute presentations by the author, and then I will join the author in conversation.”

In addition to the CLSC presentations, Ton-Aime said Brown Bag craft lectures, CLSC Book Discussions, and the Poetry Makerspace will all be available online.

“It’s going to be a wonderful summer,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

JLCO, Marsalis bring “Ever Fonky Lowdown” to Amp stage


The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs Wynton Marsalis’, “The Ever Fonky Lowdown,” alongside dancers, vocalists, and Wendell Pierce as the money-loving Mr. Game during the performance on Thursday, Aug 22, 2019 in the Amphitheater. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Volunteers continue tradition of monitoring Chautauqua Lake

Doug Conroe, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Lake Association, pulls up the sonde used to collect multiple types of data from Chautauqua Lake during the biweekly lake test on Sunday, Aug 18, 2019. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Jane and Doug Conroe sped in their motorboat from their Maple Springs home into the northern basin of Chautauqua Lake, the nose of the boat lifting above the water.

There had been thunderstorms last weekend, but suddenly, at 11 a.m. Sunday, there was an opening to go out to perform tests on the lake. Another storm loomed in the afternoon’s forecast.

They loaded up the boat with testing instruments and zoomed out to a spot off the northwest side of Long Point State Park. They didn’t need a GPS to find the location. They know this spot well, since they have been coming to it every two weeks in the summer, nearly every year for the last 34.

The tests the Conroes perform collect data for the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program, a statewide lake monitoring program run jointly by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Federation of Lake Associations since 1985. The Conroes’ involvement is a labor of love for the place where they have made their home for the past 40 years.

“She is a living ecosystem,” said Jane Conroe, referring to the lake. “And we, people, have all asked a lot of her. We live here, we love it, we enjoy it. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s fun to play in, it’s great fishing. But, since we all ask so much of her, I feel like I need to help a little bit, do a little bit of anything that I can to help.”

The Conroes have both been dedicated servants to the lake for decades. They have belonged to the Chautauqua Lake Association, where Doug Conroe is now the executive director, since the 1980s. Doug Conroe is the Institution’s former director of operations, and Jane is a retired Maple Grove Junior/Senior High School science teacher. She works with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy to educate people about installing rain gardens and shoreline buffer zones to slow and filter water before it enters the lake.

CSLAP exists at Chautauqua Lake thanks to the Conroes, who started volunteering for the program soon after its conception in 1985. In 2019, more than 400 CSLAP volunteers surveyed 176 sites on 157 lakes in the state. They perform biweekly tests that measure water clarity, pH and dissolved oxygen levels. They also collect water samples that they freeze and send to the lab for further testing.

Doug and Jane Conroe collect and extract a water sample from Chautauqua Lake using a Kemmerer water sampler during their biweekly testing of the lake on Sunday, Aug 18, 2019. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

For a lot of the lakes in the program, this is the biggest, longest data set they have, said Nancy Mueller, manager of NYSFOLA. With more than 7,500 lakes in the state, the limited DEC staff could not possibly test each of them, and especially not in the routine way that CSLAP volunteers are able to.

“(The volunteers) are the eyes on the ground. We’re not there,” Mueller said. “They’re the people who live on the lake, they’re the ones who see changes happening. They’re the ones who see invasive species, they report the algal blooms.”

NYSFOLA runs the day-to-day operations of the program, and the DEC is in charge of processing all the data. CSLAP data was used by the DEC to designate Chautauqua Lake as impaired in the early 2000s because its phosphorus levels were, and are, too high.

CSLAP data says phosphorus is increasing, although the rate at which it has been increasing has decreased slightly over the past few years. However, there is no way to know if this trend will continue. It is also very difficult to figure out why the increase in phosphorus has been slowing.

“There’s so many factors,” Jane Conroe said. “In the science world, you do a science experiment and you control all the variables and you change one thing and you see if your thing made the difference. In lab experiments, you’re totally in control. You can put it in a chamber and keep the temperature perfectly stable. Well, out here, Mother Nature just gives it to us.”

Lake associations were first founded to organize social events like picnics and fireworks, Mueller said. Now, they perform important management functions. The CLA runs the mechanical weed harvesting operation on the lake, along with a watercraft steward program that checks boats at public launches for invasive species that might be attached to the boat or trailer. Lake associations use the CSLAP data they collect to inform management decisions.

“From where I sit — and I’ve been here for over 20 years — the level of understanding by most lake associations is so much higher than it used to be,” Mueller said. “It’s so incredible to see the sort of transformation.”

That understanding comes from a routine battery of tests performed every other week in the summer — for a total of eight times. Once the Conroes reached their usual spot on the lake, Jane Conroe used a Secchi disc — a circle cut into quarters that are alternately colored black and white — to test water clarity. She lowered the disc into the water on the shady side of the boat until it disappeared from her vision. Then, she measured the depth of the disc — 1.8 meters — using the tape measure attached to it.

Next, Doug Conroe lowered a sonde — a tube-shaped tool with sensors at the bottom —  into the water. As he fed the cable attached to the instrument into the water, Jane Conroe sat on the bench in the back of the boat and read the changing depths from the meter out loud. They stopped and took readings at multiple depths, typically every two meters.

Doug Conroe, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Lake Association, begins to fill out the recordings from the day’s lake testing on Sunday, Aug 18, 2019. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Last, the pair used a Kemmerer bottle, which snaps shut when a weight is sent down its cable, to capture water samples at 1.5 and 10 meters.

The couple worked quickly. They had completed these tasks many times before.

Through their years with CSLAP, the Conroes have become point people for data collection on the lake for the DEC. Over their decades of service, they have added tests for arsenic and harmful algal blooms.

While sometimes tedious, the task of data collection is surmountable for the Conroes, who have a boat and a lakefront property in Maple Springs. Jane Conroe pointed out that participating in CSLAP might be inaccessible for some people who don’t have these amenities, which is part of the reason she says it is difficult to find volunteers.

The Conroes enlisted the help of their son-in-law, Jeff Moore, to do collection in the south basin.

But they don’t know how long they will be able to continue to volunteer for CSLAP. They took a break in 1996, when it all felt too overwhelming, Jane Conroe said. The next year, they started right back up again.

“Data is important, and if you don’t get it, it’s lost,” Doug Conroe said. “You skip a year, you don’t know that year’s data.”

They hope to train new people who can continue the data collection on Chautauqua Lake when they cannot anymore.

“It’s all about the volunteers. They put in so much time, so much commitment to the program, and it doesn’t happen without them,” Mueller said. “I find it pretty remarkable that we don’t have a huge turnover of volunteers. We have people who do it for 20 years.”   

Later that evening, after Moore brought the water samples from the south basin, they would pour the water into smaller bottles and pour some water onto a special filter paper that would collect the algae in the water. They roll up this paper and place it in a test tube. Doug Conroe ships everything the next day.

Doug Conroe has spent at least part of every summer of his life on Chautauqua Lake, now owning their home, in addition to his grandfather’s former cottage next door. Both professionally and personally, the Conroes have worked to protect and improve the lake they call home. This year, Jane Conroe installed a rain garden with native plants designed to provide habitat for insects and catch and filter water before it drains into the lake.

“I think that there’s times that people want to know, what was it like before? They say, ‘It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it, (or) it’s the best I’ve ever seen it,’ ” Jane Conroe said. “All of those anecdotal observations are true; they are what the people are seeing. But then, when we can go back to a body of data that says this is what it was like, this is what it is now, we have a basis for comparison.”

After 2 seasons at literary arts helm, Atkinson to move to Catapult


On the first Sunday of the season, the Poetry Makerspace at the Hultquist Center hosted the inaugural “Poems on the Porch” of the summer, emceed by Director of Literary Arts Atom Atkinson and Wick Poetry fellow Sony Ton-Aime. Wielding a portable mic, the two literary arts staff members traded poems with the Chautauquans who convened on the porch that quiet afternoon, reading their own poetry and listening while others shared theirs.

That brief time leading the weekly event with Atkinson was a summer highlight for Ton-Aime. But it was what Atkinson did during the “Poems on the Porch” gatherings of the following weeks — when only Ton-Aime served as the official facilitator — that, for Ton-Aime, epitomizes them as a leader.


“We hosted that first reading together, but they came back every Sunday to write a poem, use the Emerge app and read a poem with everyone,” Ton-Aime said. “They didn’t need to be there. They had a lot of things to do. But they took the time to come and write a poem and share the poem with everyone else. Those moments were, for me, the best moments.”

Atkinson, who has served as director of literary arts at Chautauqua Institution since 2017,  announced Wednesday they would be stepping down from that position. In two weeks, they will begin a new professional opportunity as director of writing programs for Catapult, a New York City-based literary arts organization that oversees an interwoven network of books, courses and a namesake literary magazine.

At Catapult, Atkinson found a community that is, like Chautauqua, committed to cultivating the literary arts inside a more everyday experience.

“I am not interested in work that doesn’t feel crucial, resonant and really ambitious for meeting the world in as many ways as possible,” they said. “That’s what drew me to Chautauqua, and that’s what’s drawing me to Catapult, too.”

Atkinson’s colleagues, like Ton-Aime and CLSC Octagon manager Stephine Hunt, commended their vision and energy — qualities that, according to Hunt, have become “entrenched” in the overall mission of the literary arts at Chautauqua.

“I think Atom has really taken the literary arts programming to a new level for Chautauqua,” Hunt said. “They’ve brought some really great faces, and sometimes challenging reads, to the community, and I think the (Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle) needed that. In the past couple of years, we have had a much more diverse group of CLSC authors — in race, age, gender and sexuality. It’s all work of outstanding literary merit that generates great conversation on the grounds here. I’m really appreciative of that.”

During Atkinson’s two-year tenure, the Institution has formed new partnerships with The Paris Review, Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, The Academy of American Poets, Just Buffalo Literary Center and Catapult, among others. At the 16th annual Writers’ Festival this June, Atkinson “took risks” and saw, as a result, “more and more people connecting to what they experienced” inside the four days before Week One. By spearheading “rewarding” work with the literary arts interns and scholarship students, they ensured that an attention to diversity extended beyond faculty and guest authors, to workshop and book discussion participants. And, on Aug. 7, they graduated from the CLSC with their mom. 

“I think that is really exemplary of Chautauqua’s egalitarian spirit,” Atkinson said. “Yes, I’m the director of literary arts, but that role is not designed to be about authority. Every role at Chautauqua is about the capacity for anyone to be a leader, a teacher, a student, a speaker, a listener, a host, a guest, a donor, a beneficiary — all of us can occupy these roles in one way or another. Even if we’re just donating cookies. That was something that I was really excited to take part in as a student, through reading with my mom.”

Atkinson, who leads the seasonal literary arts staff within the Department of Education, said that they “will miss working alongside the hardest-working team of colleagues (they’ve) ever, ever worked alongside.”

“We end up all being examples for each other in terms of work ethic and, very specifically, the drive to make this really impossibly utopian idea as close to a positive and generative an educational experience for people as it can be,” Atkinson said.

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, described the experience of serving alongside Atkinson as “among the most impactful and satisfying work” in his time at Chautauqua.

“While we will miss them greatly as a member of the education team and as a member of this community, we’re also grateful for Atom’s contributions to the larger work of this Institution and for their leadership in positioning the literary arts for even greater impact,” Ewalt said.

For Atkinson, Chautauqua is a place where individuals “of all manner of pedigree” and those “who might otherwise feel intimidated” can convene in community to discuss contemporary challenges and good literature.

“If that doesn’t happen in a book discussion group or creative writing workshop, I don’t know where it happens,” they said. “I’m really proud of the fact that it’s so evident to so many people that, now as much as ever, the literary arts are a place where we can see that it’s really a false choice between choosing between Chautauqua’s traditions and Chautauqua’s potential.”

Marsalis’ ‘The Jungle’ creates mosaic of ‘American truths’

Conductor Cristian Măcelaru directs the combined Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for Music Director Wynton Marsalis’, “The Jungle,” during the concert on Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019 in the Amphitheater. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“The Jungle,” Wynton Marsalis’ Fourth Symphony, is a shock effect of sound and ideas, as authorities around the country continue to close what is home for many, closing in Ithaca, Seattle and San Jose. Colorful, dense parcels of land, poached by men and women and children with nothing, these hard-scramble places are still sites for stories and the music of freedom, as they have been since the end of the Civil War; places for disposed and the subsequent waves of immigrants, near the docks or the tracks or the raw meat market historically recorded in book-length by journalist Upton Sinclair in Chicago.

In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt called Sinclair “a crackpot.” Later, Sinclair won the Pulitzer Prize.

Maestro Wynton Marsalis, also a Pulitzer medalist, awakens the ear’s mind with vision that follows history’s Jungle into our time. It begins with the genocide of Native Americans, and through the horror of slavery and into the struggles of Americans since. The music of “The Jungle” is inclusive of these painstaking times, their manners and means of expression, from hand-clapping to a wailing, free-wheeling jazz.

Marsalis is an American genius, a juggler of ideas and a poet. He is a family man who plays a trumpet like no one else. He is a leader, who, with his music, models for a higher ground. His book, among others, is heartfelt and smart: Moving to a Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.

Marsalis describes “The Jungle” as “a dense mosaic of all kinds of people everywhere, doing all kinds of things.” His launch for music is New York City, where he lives and directs Jazz at Lincoln Center and its orchestra, performing at Chautauqua on Tuesday with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. The symphony was under the baton of Cristian Măcelaru, director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and now the WDR Symphony Orchestra in Cologne, Germany. He is a frequent guest conductor at Chautauqua and a frequent collaborator with Marsalis, a leader in realizing complex new work.

“The Jungle” may sound as a quiet sax on a rooftop at night, or as a scream, city-wide. It changes tempo and key suddenly, startling quotations from ragtime, bebop and the blues, a symphony that calls forth from these expressions the linkage of racial and ethnic inequality, prejudice, corruption and survival of the fittest. Yet such suffering, these denials of human rights, harvests joy as well, told by the urban legacies of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Les Brown, and other greats. 

Black Elk, a 19th-century Oglala Lakota medicine man, conveys another legacy Marsalis cites from outside the cities, a bequest from the plains. Black Elk knew the secrets of the Ghost Dance, and at 13 years old, fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn and subsequently survived the Wounded Knee Massacre. Black Elk told his story to his son, who shared it with John Neihardt, the Nebraska poet laureate, who wrote, in 1932, the book Carl Jung admired, Black Elk Speaks. Marsalis also listened.

“The Jungle,” in its first movement, calls out Native tradition, and over an hour, divides into six varied movements a powerful scatter shot across the bow of American truths. The composer names them:

“The Big Scream (Black Elk Speaks),” which comes on suddenly, with a driving beat — plucked strings, a hard piano, relentless horns and any clangorous device hidden in percussion. The horror right up front, and soon drums summon a Native voice, a call for presence. The reeds are scat singers at 1/16. They could eat violins but are restrained. Someone shouts. Someone has created a crow’s call. Someone is going to bite their reed. Oh piccolo, how can you sound so tough? Bells ring. Oh jazz ancestors, remember players on this Amphitheater stage.

“The Big Show,” and cymbals announce. A flute takes it to the air. Sounds like a hustle, then soft violins for Big Band musical theater or a Blue Book formal dance. A changing palette of memory. Was that Show Boat passing? Calling on bebop, ragtime, early century immigrant dances.

“Lost in Sight (Post-Pastoral).” This is personal, withal one man’s lens and ear. Post-Pastoral is in Marsalis’ city. That solo from a rooftop, so sweet it could be movie music, and the cellos add a haunt from a European tradition, a classical remembrance. A siren brings startling recognition; a reminder of troubles, the homeless everywhere, disposed, beaten down and out. How can it be so in the midst of unimaginable wealth? This is lost in sight — the reason for that doleful trombone from some lonely place. The everlasting blues upon which jazz takes shape and draws its breath with hollow sounds from the piano and insouciant interruptions: The wah wah of a capped trombone. Skeletal.

“La Esquina,” a street corner meeting place for the deep spirit of an Afro-Latino neighborhood. A huge cymbal interrupts, and a sax solo brings on dissonance, the blues and a hammer of wood on wood, knocking, a vulgar interruption. Violins attempt to bring order from another place.

“Us”: This is for all to hear — phrases from Les Brown and his Band of Renown’s “Sentimental Journey.” The words do not need to be sung: “Gonna take a sentimental journey / Gonna set my heart at ease …” The trombone stands for a solo. Action is before us all, Marsalis wrote, “with, against, and up against …” We stand on an edge of transformation; pay attention, jazz proclaims.

“Struggle in the Digital Market,” a hot wire in high register, a quickened pulse brought into mid-tones by winds and reeds, still with loosened edges on a shifting margin. In his notes, Marsalis declares that the struggle questions us: “Will we seek and find more equitable, long-term solutions?” There is false ending, a climax and a pause and the audience begins applause. Then a single instrument brings it back, the voice of an individual.

This ending solo by Marsalis is from the middle of the stage, seated as the fourth trumpet, a humble position. His improvisation begins as a scream, returning to the opening movement, but within a framework established in the 2016 premiere in New York City. An improvisation declares a personal freedom, while searching for a common ground with its listeners

This solo will be sustained as a masterpiece of sound and wisdom, built upon the call of an anthem and hints of New Orleans, then upon a subtle bed of strings and a challenging duel with the tambourine. Marsalis sits in his chair, virtually hidden. The bell of his instrument is capped, handheld, opened like a valve.

I interrupt in the spirit of “The Jungle.” Let me be personal.

I have heard the sound of a dying fawn, the cries from deep in her throat, under attack by a neighbor’s dog, just outside our window. I have not heard such a sound since, until Marsalis’ penultimate phrase. I will not forget that sound: Sharp, hard, guttural cries that chill to the bone. Where did this sound come from? Where does it lead?

It leads to an awful silence, Marsalis answered, leaving open the trumpet’s valves — his instrument registering only the sound of his breath. A series of three: Breath. Breath. Breath. And repeat. Again.

Then a long silence, audience composing its witness and standing gratitude.

Dr. Anthony Bannon is a critic who served as a newspaper and magazine journalist and as a director at George Eastman Museum in Rochester, and the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State. His recent book, Portraits: William Coupon, features a commanding image of Maestro Marsalis. A launch and discussion about the book, published by Damiani Editore, will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 26, at the Burchfield Penney.

Morning panel examining race, culture to conclude Week 9


A cure to the social and cultural ills of 21st-century American life lies within its people — at least, so says Wynton Marsalis.

The only catch? Each of us has to help find it.

“We’re ultimately responsible for the well-being and vision of our nation,” said Marsalis, a world-renowned trumpeter, composer and the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. “There’s a lot of it to go around. If enough people think there shouldn’t be this type of prison population, there won’t be. If enough people think there shouldn’t be housing discrimination, there won’t be. And no one person is going to decide that.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Marsalis will close Week Nine discussions on the state of race and culture in the United States as part of a panel that includes Iliff School of Theology’s Miguel A. De La Torre and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Curator of Latinx Studies Ariana A. Curtis. Robert Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College and former director of religion at Chautauqua Institution, will moderate.

“With Robert as our guide, we want to unpack Thursday night’s (‘Ever Fonky Lowdown’) performance with Wynton, but also hear reflections on the performance — and the week — from two of our other contributors to the weeklong examination of race and culture in America,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “As we close our week, and our summer assembly season, we also want to consider what work and conversations we carry with us as we return to our home communities.”

Marsalis considers the music and tradition of jazz to be inextricably linked with the national conversations on race that have happened throughout U.S. history.

“The music was a cause,” he said. “People like Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and later Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, that generation of musicians, they knew it was a cause. And the white musicians who played knew it was a cause, too. Bix Beiderbecke knew it was a cause.”

According to Marsalis, early 19th-century jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman was another particularly significant example of a white musician who advocated for racial justice.

In 1936, Goodman hired pianist Teddy Wilson as a member of his group, one of the first times a black musician performed onstage with a white band.

“Even white people had a consciousness about it,” Marsalis said. “Now that’s decreased as the time has passed, because white consciousness has basically gone away in jazz. But it used to be there.”

Nowadays, white jazz musicians don’t advocate enough for racial justice, according to Marsalis.

“Who’s a white jazz musician today that’s really conscious of civil rights and a champion of them like Dave Brubeck was, or Benny Goodman?” he asked. “Name them, and what is their body of work?”

But the real question, the one Marsalis said he’s been asking himself since the 1980s, is why that development has taken place in music that has its own roots in slavery.

“There’s a reality out here of apathy,” he said. “Why? I don’t know. I’m not indicting people because they’re not (a champion of civil rights), I’m just saying there’s a paucity of figures.”

Claims of ownership over jazz — and music in general — are false when they are based on race, Marsalis said.

“Black and white are constructs for America, and we use them because it helps us negotiate what it is,” he said. “But music is beyond that. I would not relegate our racial problems to our music. John Coltrane said that in the book Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music by (Frank) Kofsky. I read that in the ’70s, and I thought, ‘Damn, they put Trane on the cover of this, and he’s refuting the premise of the book.’ ”

For Marsalis, jazz is about joy. about things coming together — a process that he compared to the experience of a kid asking if they can play basketball with local players.

“After you start scoring baskets, (the players) are like, ‘Oh, shit, this is my man,’ ” he said. “Based on your ability to play, now your relationship with them has changed. You don’t even know the guys. Well, there you go, that’s jazz. It’s very natural. Nobody’s hanging up a sign, there’s no philosophers out there. If you know the rules, you can play.”

With ‘Masterworks of Duke Ellington,’ JLCO to explore jazz giant’s oeuvre

Music Director Wynton Marsalis plays the trumpet alongside the combined Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in playing the National Anthem before playing Marsalis’, “The Jungle,” during the concert on Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019 in the Amphitheater. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chris Crenshaw began playing the piano at age 3. At age 11, he earned a perfect score on his school’s musical aptitude test, and so was granted the privilege of selecting an instrument of his choice from the array provided by his school’s band program. He settled on the trombone.

“I looked at my long arms and said, ‘I can do that,’ ” Crenshaw said.

Thirteen years later, the trombonist joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In 2007, he received his master’s degree in jazz studies from The Juilliard School.

Crenshaw, along with saxophonist Victor Goines — who first picked up a clarinet as a kind of therapy for his childhood asthma — and the rest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will perform “Masterworks of Duke Ellington” at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater to conclude Week Nine, “Exploring Race and Culture with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

After a week of “digging into and unpacking deep issues and conversations,” Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, said she is excited for a “celebratory” finale for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s week at Chautauqua Institution. 

“We planned ‘Masterworks of Duke Ellington’ for Friday evening because we knew it would be a celebratory and joyful way to end the residency,” Moore said. “We wanted to end the conversation with music.”

Although, according to Crenshaw, the orchestra will not have a specific setlist solidified “probably until the night of,” Chautauquans can expect to hear a wide variety of pieces from Ellington’s expansive career — more than 50 years of music covering everything from his early Cotton Club era, to the recordings from the ’40s featuring bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, to 1968’s Grammy Award-winning Far East Suite, an album inspired by a State Department-funded trip to countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. Exploring the span of the composer’s oeuvre material requires agility, Crenshaw said.

“You have to get into different mindsets,” he said. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

For Goines, a composer with more than 50 original works to his credit and a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet since 1993, Ellington “embodies everything that American jazz represents: celebration, swing, the blues, democracy and collaboration inside the music.” 

“There are very few people who have studied (Ellington) as well as we have,” said Goines, who grew up with Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis. “It’s important to keep that thread alive. To be in that legacy is a tremendous opportunity.”

While Goines described Ellington’s work as all “extraordinary masterpieces” that are fulfilling to play, Crenshaw is partial to “The Mooche,” a jazz song that features the atypical “jungle style” that Ellington pioneered. 

“In the ’20s, people heard a lot of hot jazz and sweet jazz,” Crenshaw said. “Duke had a way of combining the two (to develop ‘jungle style’). It was just a different color — Duke was really about colors. He was a painter, after all.”

As the leader of his own quartet, Goines admires Ellington’s democratic approach to producing art. The band was Ellington’s instrument, he noted, yet he gave his musicians the opportunity to impact the music.

“Duke Ellington was the master of originality,” Goines said. “You had to strive for independence and individuality — always be yourself and personalize your part.”

By featuring different members of the band with individual opportunities to ad lib, “Masterworks of Duke Ellington,” is a sparkling salute to a force of American music.

“Everyone will like it,” Crenshaw said. “You get most of what Duke was about, no matter what time period.”

Annual ‘5 Giants’ program to close Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series


Chautauquans give back to the Institution in different ways — whether it’s financially, spiritually, emotionally or physically — and each season, five “great Chautauquans” are recognized for their positive impact on the community.

“I think it’s a nice thing to recognize the people who have made a contribution, but also to have a wide range of people who do that recognizing,” said Jon Schmitz, Chautauqua Institution’s archivist and historian. “The people chosen can be living or dead, they can be well-known or unknown — they just have to be perceived by someone to have been making a significant contribution to Chautauqua.”

At 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Schmitz will lead the presentation of “Five More Giants of Chautauqua,” to close out the 2019 season of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

The presentation, now a Chautauqua tradition, started in 2006 when five Chautauquans were each asked to talk about someone they felt made a positive impact on the community.

This year’s outstanding Chautauquans are: Jeffrey Simpson, presented by Sylvia Faust; Norman and Nancy Karp, presented by Suzanne Aldrich; Anna Shaw, presented by Joana Leamon; Mark Russell, presented by Bill Bates; and Bob and Carole Reeder, presented by Robert Selke.


Simpson, who passed away in August 2018, spent every summer of his life in Chautauqua. He was the author of several books, including his memoir, An American Elegy, a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection in 1997, and Chautauqua: An American Utopia, a CLSC selection in 1999.

“Many people buy (Chautauqua: An American Utopia) as an introduction to Chautauqua,” Schmitz said. “(Simpson) represents a period of Chautauqua’s history, so when he died, it was significant. It was like a passing of an era for many of us, so I think it’s important that we remember him.”

Simpson’s involvement in Chautauqua ranged from being a member of the CLSC Class of 1974, an honoree of the CLSC Class of 2009; serving on the Institution’s board of trustees; the program committee; education and youth recreation committee; and the marketing and planning committee.

“I hope the attendees will come away with an appreciation of his influence in reporting the history of Chautauqua,” Faust said.


Nancy and Norman Karp have been very active in the Chautauqua community through the Bird, Tree & Garden Club, PFLAG and CLSC. The Karps are year-round Chautauquans who have also been instrumental in maintaining a year-round readers program.

“I think there are a lot of individuals who quietly contribute to Chautauqua; (the Karps) do it quietly without a lot of fanfare, but are definitely a real core of the success to Chautauqua,” Aldrich said. “We know about the important folks, but the day-to-day, year-to-year works sometimes don’t show.”

The Karps donated furniture to the Smith Memorial Library, a place in which they spend lots of time through the year, as they thought Chautauquans could benefit from more seating and created a space to make people feel more welcome when they get there.

Shaw was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement and one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States.


Schmitz believes that Shaw is the most important suffragette at Chautauqua, even though she is often forgotten, and emphasized the importance of remembering her — especially with the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment approaching next year.

“Shaw’s exceptional oratory has endeared her to us as a teaching institution,” Leamon said. “Her regular visits to the several Chautauquas around the nation was an important part of the Suffrage Movement and should be celebrated.”

Russell, American political satirist and comedian, who is best known for his parody music, concluded his 60-year career in 2010 with a performance at “one of his favorite venues”: the Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Schmitz, whose family loves Russell, said the star has been “extremely involved” in Chautauqua over the years, and while Russell has been featured in the Heritage Lecture Series before, Schmitz said his contributions made him well worth another highlight.

Both Bob and Carole Reeder have been involved in various Chautauqua-based organizations, with their main focus being the PFLAG group; though Bob passed away in July 2018, Carole remains active in the Chautauqua community. More than their physical involvement on the grounds, Schmitz said the couple will be remembered for being “genuinely kind” people. Schmitz recalled Bob’s generosity in particular, such as when he framed archival material for Schmitz to assist in preserving it for future Chautauquans. 


“(Bob) always insisted on doing it for free, even though I tried to convince him to at least let us buy supplies or materials,” Schmitz said. “He did an excellent job framing things in a way that they would be protected.”

Schmitz experienced the couple’s collective generosity himself before he even became an Institution employee. Schmitz said the Reeders opened their home for him during his Chautauqua interview process.

Selke, who has worked with the Reeders within PFLAG, is excited to pay tribute to some “wonderful Chautauquans,” who he feels lucky to be able to call his friends.   

“There are people that really put their heart and soul into this Institution — either financially or emotionally or work-wise,” Selke said. “For the Reeders, it was work. They always had their door open. Carole has this thing, if you go by (her house) she bakes chocolate chip cookies every day and leaves her door open. So I lived in a house in Wahmeda and we would walk by her house every day.”

According to Selke, these “five giants” embody some of the best ways to give back to the Chautauqua community and create friendships with the people one will, hopefully, spend summers with for the “rest of their lives.” And Schmitz said that is exactly why the presentation is a perfect fit for the end of the season.

“It’s nice to be able to thank everybody,  recognize a few people, and I know a lot of people appreciate it,” Schmitz said. “I think it’s a good way of ending it.”

In final Interfaith Friday, Candler to bring liberal Christian perspective


The Very Rev. Samuel Candler is contemplative.

“I appreciate the presence of God in silence and in the outdoors,” said Candler, a lecturer and the dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. “I grew up on a farm, so I still appreciate being outside. To me, there’s something about the early morning darkness that speaks of God’s power.”

And God’s power is exactly what Candler will speak on today.

At 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Candler will conclude Chautauqua’s Interfaith Friday lecture series with another unique Christian perspective on the problem of evil in religion. Candler will be joined in conversation by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor.

“It’s a familiar problem,” Candler said. “And it gives me a chance to collect one of my most provocative talks on that subject.”

Candler has included his liberal view on Christianity and his sense of optimism in lectures all over the world, including in England, Costa Rica and Canada.
“A lot of times, people want to hear from a different culture,” he said. “There are a lot of different attitudes towards the United States these days, so I consider myself a spokesperson for the progressive Episcopal Church.”

One message Candler champions in his preaching and lecturing is the importance of interfaith relationships.

“I enjoy interfaith relationships,” he said. “I believe the future of spirituality is to understand and to appreciate different faith traditions.”

Along those lines, Candler is a member of The Faith Alliance, the interfaith network of the City of Atlanta.

“That group was especially active after 9/11,” he said. “It was important for people from different faith traditions to appreciate each other, especially during accusations of violence. We went on some trips with Christians, Jews and Muslims together: 10 Christians, 10 Jews and 10 Muslims living and traveling with each other.”

Candler said that those relationships are critically important “to understand people and to understand people’s sense of faith, so that when issues come up, we have a sense of something in common — as opposed to antagonism.”

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