Expanding the Porch

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I have been encouraged and grateful to all those who have engaged with me through their questions and ideas on how we invite new, diverse communities to become a part of the Chautauqua family. The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Plan, available at, provides some pathways for this work. Objective three of this plan states that we will “build relationships, experimental pipelines and collaborations to welcome more diverse populations to our grounds and programs.”  

What might that look like? We believe that we have an opportunity to build relationships and, a focus area of the IDEA Plan, especially invite “mission-aligned regional community organizations and professional organizations that serve diverse populations to engage with our grounds and programs.” This may range from the national and regional networks of historically Black fraternities and sororities (like The Divine Nine), regional cultural organizations (like the Federation of India Community Associations Cleveland), and professional organizations (like the Hispanic National Bar Association and Medical Society of Eastern Philadelphia, which serves Black doctors in Philadelphia). The organizations listed here are only examples of organizations and networks. If you have suggestions of similar organizations, please share those ideas directly with me at  

It is important to note that my office and the Institution will do its part to make these connections. However, I invite all Chautauquans to help with these efforts. As an individual, are you able to invite a friend or colleague to come and visit the magic of Chautauqua? As a representative of a denominational house or a community group, are you able to tap into your networks to extend similar invitations? I invite your active participation in these efforts. I will also note that we have started the first steps in this direction, and the inaugural Haudenosaunee Confederacy Day is one small example of this relationship building.   

Ultimately, our goal is to connect with individuals and organizations that would be interested in our four formal pillars — Education, Religion, Arts and Recreation. There are many diverse communities in our region, and nationally, that are deeply connected to one or more of our pillars and would readily direct their time and resources to experience Chautauqua. Others might be seeking an additional hidden pillar of Chautauqua — something I affectionately call the “porch” — a euphemism for community and belonging. So much of our connection to Chautauqua is with our stellar program, but the other half of the equation that brings people back year after year, generation after generation is: community. The “porch” is the most visual representation of that sense of belonging.  

Our task ahead then is threefold. First, how do we identify and reach out to the types of organizations listed above to invite them to the grounds or participate in year-round and online activities? How do we build multimedia marketing strategies aimed at recruiting diverse populations to the grounds and beyond; in other words, make an argument for “Why Chautauqua?” Last, but not least, if we are to welcome diverse communities, we need to make sure that we collectively create a fully inclusive experience that leads to a sense of belonging. More on that in a future column.   
Amit Taneja  
Senior Vice President & Chief IDEA Officer 

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility: Our Path Forward

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Welcome back to the grounds! I am grateful to all Chautauquans — our patrons, property owners, community group leaders and others — who extended a gracious and warm welcome in 2021 for my first season as senior vice president and chief inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) officer. I had numerous conversations centered around your hopes and aspirations for our community, including areas where we have room for growth. These conversations were extremely helpful in shaping the Institution’s IDEA plan that will guide our collective work in the next two years. I am pleased to share that we have launched a new IDEA website,, where the plan is available to download. 

I would like to share three key features of this plan. First, the plan assumes that all those who call themselves Chautauquans — whether they are staff, trustees, patrons or other community members — have a key role in ensuring its success. Second, the plan aligns with many of the strategic priorities outlined in the Institution’s larger strategic plan, 150 Forward. Third, the plan is both aspirational and achievable; it outlines pathways where our efforts to welcome new and diverse patrons to the grounds overlap with our collective efforts to create a sense of welcome and belonging for all those who grace our grounds and programs.  

Many Chautauquans feel passionately about the work enveloped in the IDEA plan being a strategic priority and investment to ensure the long-term vitality of the Institution. These thoughts came up during the listening sessions that led to the creation of 150 Forward and were reiterated to me by many Chautauquans. I am especially grateful to those who shared their hopes and fears, particularly in outlining both the ethical and moral reasons for us to engage in this work, but also the business opportunities. I hope that the strategies, specific objectives and focus areas listed in the plan provide us the foundation to thoughtfully and meaningfully engage in this work. 

I had the pleasure of presenting this plan via Zoom to a few Chautauquans, as well as some community groups and leaders, over the past two months. I look forward to sharing the plan again during the upcoming season. Details for these gathering times and locations will be in the Daily’s calendar listings. My hope for these gatherings is to seek reflections from all Chautauquans. I especially encourage you to review the IDEA plan while considering the following invitation: Are there specific focus areas you’d support, or strategies that you might be willing to contribute to? 

In the coming weeks, we will provide you further details about some of the specific plans we put into motion. These range from our renewed focus on Chautauqua Dialogues to updates on our Accessibility Audit work. I hope that you will join me in this collective endeavor. 

Amit Taneja 
Senior Vice President & Chief IDEA Officer 

Miracles Man: Motown icon Robinson to close out 2021 Chautauqua season



Smokey Robinson

The final mainstage performer of Chautauqua’s 2021 season really needs no introduction.

Legendary singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson, once pronounced by Bob Dylan as America’s greatest living poet, returns to the Institution to perform at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. The show requires a separate ticket purchase by all attendees; tickets are available at and any ticketing location.

Robinson’s career spans more than five decades, starting with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Their hit “Shop Around” was Motown Records’ first No. 1 hit on the R&B singles chart. The list of Robinson-penned classics is endless: “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Tears of a Clown,” “I Second That Emotion” and, of course, “My Girl,” made famous by The Temptations.

“When you hear any one of my songs by another (Motown) artist, I’d written those songs specifically for them,” Robinson told George Varga of The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I didn’t stockpile songs and say: ‘This will work for me.’ ”

If it wasn’t for The Temptations, Robinson said, he probably never would have had a career at Motown, where he eventually went on to be vice president, serving as in-house producer, talent scout and songwriter. “My Girl” has become an “international anthem” at Robinson’s concerts.

His list of honors is nearly as long as his song catalogue — he’s received the Grammy Living Legend Award, the NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts from the President of the United States. 

And, of course, he’s been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, as well as the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in his hometown, Detroit.

All told, Robinson has more than 4,000 songs to his credit, and now he’s back on the road this month for the first time since early 2020. He kept busy during lockdown, continuing to write new songs, recording and contributing to the script for a feature film about his life. But all that work was put on pause when he spent 11 days in a hospital, in intensive care, after contracting COVID-19 in December 2020.

“It wiped me out,” Robinson told Varga. “It was touch and go.”

COVID-19 “messed with my vocal cords,” Robinson said, but now recovered and resuming touring feels good, and meaningful.

“Everything means more to me now,” he told Varga.

Robinson to close with message of Chautauqua’s unique role in the world



The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

When the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson preached at the closing worship service for 2020, he said, “We are not going to emerge from the pandemic until we understand what we are supposed to learn during such a time as this.” Given the pandemic, the injustice of the justice system and the climate heading in the wrong direction, Chautauqua had to wrestle with how to not let go until blessed by God.

Chautauqua found a way through the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, a new way for Chautauqua to spread its wings and its message. 

“Chautauqua is part of wrestling with how to answer the question: What does the world need more than ever? Unlike Davos, TED Talks or Aspen, we are not afraid to find God in all the wrestling. We are meant to renew our commitment to our mission and have the courage to have conversations that matter, and provide hope to a fearful, chaotic world,” Robinson said in the closing service. 

The Department of Religion wrestled with all they learned last year while developing the worship services and lecture series for the 2021 season. Speaking about the 2021 season, Robinson said, “It’s been a great season for the Department of Religion. A steady stream of thoughtful, lively and inspired preachers. And what we lost in a slightly pared-back series of lectures, we more than made up for in quality. Maureen (Rovegno) and I could not be more pleased with our 2021 season.”

Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor, will preach at the final 10:45 a.m. Sunday ecumenical worship service with sermon. His sermon title is “Are We More than a Theme Park?” The Scripture reading is Matthew 25:31-46. Rovegno, director of religion, will serve as liturgist. Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill will read the Scripture.

Robinson was elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire on June 7, 2003, becoming the first openly gay and partnered priest to be elected Bishop in historic Christendom. He served as IX Bishop of New Hampshire until his retirement in early 2013. A senior fellow at both the Center for American Progress and Auburn Seminary, Robinson is a celebrated interfaith leader whose ministry has focused on helping congregations and clergy, especially in times of conflict, utilizing his skills in congregational dynamics, conflict resolution and mediation. He is the author of In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God and God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage. In 2009, at the invitation of President Barack Obama, Robinson prayed the invocation at the Opening Inaugural Event at the Lincoln Memorial.

Stafford, Robinson reflect on 2021 season, look ahead to final Sacred Song Service, 2022



Joshua Stafford leads sacred song during evening service on Sunday August 22, 2021 in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Josh Stafford entered the 2021 Chautauqua season excited, but hesitant. With COVID-19 regulations seemingly changing every day, Stafford wasn’t sure what his first in-person year as the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and director of sacred music would look like practically until the season started.

“It’s been wonderful to settle into a rhythm and have everything go so well this year,” he said.

Reflecting on this year, Stafford said he worked nearly nonstop all summer. 

“I had always known this was a big job, and it never really stopped, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the pace of the season,” he said. “It really is relentless in a wonderful way.”

The pace will finally relent after this Sunday’s 8 p.m. Sacred Song Service in the Amphitheater. 

As with every Sacred Song, “Day is Dying in the West” and “Largo” on the organ are featured songs, Stafford said. For anthems, he has selected “For the Beauty of the Earth” by John Rutter, “The House of Faith has Many Rooms,” by Craig Phillips and “Alleluia,” by Randall Thompson.

“I’m hoping to provide an uplifting and cheerful end to a wonderful season,” he said.

Stafford experienced worship in the Amp six days each week. He said it was wonderful working with the Motet Choir.

“It’s been a treat working with a group of singers who are mostly professional musicians in their day-to-day lives,” he said.

Regarding the 5,640-pipe Massey Memorial Organ, Stafford said it sounded better than it has in years. 

Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson only had exemplary words for Stafford, saying he could not be more pleased with how Stafford’s performed this year.

“Nobody can quarrel with his ability to play,” Robinson said. “I’d put him up against anybody at any age with any amount of experience. He is just a brilliant musician.” 

Robinson said it’s clear the choir loves working for him.

“They rehearse seriously, and they give him their all,” he said. “That is a lot of them, of course, it’s also a lot of Josh. I think he inspires that in people.”

Stafford is a dynamic musician, playing a concerto one day and improvising a silent movie the next, something Robinson said most people wouldn’t dare attempt or have the skillset to attempt. Robinson was also impressed with people’s reactions to the silent movies.

Joshua Stafford, Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist; Director of Sacred Music, leads sacred song during evening service on Sunday August 22, 2021 in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“People were laughing, and nobody was leaving,” he said.

For Sunday and weekday services, Stafford does not choose the music until he knows the scripture lesson and the sermon title. 

“He can find a text that so goes with the sermon, you’d think the preacher wrote it,” Robinson said. “It’s an astounding thing. Our preachers have all noticed, they’re all like, ‘Who chose this music? It is perfect!’ It’s Josh.”

In addition to the almost-daily sermons, Robinson said this might be the best group of preachers he’s seen since being at Chautauqua. 

“I’ve had more positive feedback about the preachers than I can ever remember getting,” he said.

Each one wrote a separate liturgy, something new for Chautauqua, he said. No two services repeated, while previous years saw three weeks of services repeated twice more, so each one of the services was done three times, he said. 

Due to the pandemic, Robinson said no worship booklets were used this year, instead displaying hymns on the screens. 

“For the most part, people have really liked that, and as a person up front it is nice to have people looking straight ahead or upwards and singing, as opposed to looking down into their book and singing into their book,” he said. “It just sounds better.”

The smaller choir was also a necessary change, he said, but he was amazed by the volume of music they did.

This Sunday, Robinson will be the preacher.

“That always adds a bit of drama to my life, because how do you sum up a season?” he said. 

He has an answer, though. His sermon, titled “Are We More Than a Theme Park?” will challenge people and offer a meaningful end to the summer, he said.

“Are we just here to be intellectually entertained, or is there more to it than that?” he said. “Do we hope for something more than that? What is that, and what does it look like?”

Turning back to Stafford, Robinson is proud to have him on staff, and feels it might be his best decision in his four years at Chautauqua. 

For Stafford, it’s been a dream come true, though he said it wasn’t the way he expected to get the job, following the sudden death of Chautauqua’s previous organist, Jared Jacobsen, on Aug. 27, 2019.

“This is a job I have dreamed of having since I was a kid,” he said.

Looking ahead to next year, Stafford is hopeful for a choir at least doubled in size, bringing organ recitals back to the Amp and having the organ heard at the Hall of Christ again. He also hopes to bring in an organ scholar to pass the knowledge and experience of Chautauqua to the next generation, he said. 

In the immediate future, Stafford said he is looking forward to resting after the season ends. He’ll return to his other job in Jacksonville, Florida, another relatively new position for him. For this year, it’s proven to be everything he hoped for, he said.

“I’m so excited to be here and be a part of Chautauqua and so thankful for the warm welcome I’ve received from almost everyone this summer,” he said. “It’s been really wonderful.”

A taste of tradition: 2021 Culinary Week

The Thule Adult Swedish Folk Dance Team dances with music played by Svenska Spelman under the Culinary Week tent Tuesday in Miller Park. The Scandinavian Festival, usually held annually in nearby Jamestown but canceled for the past two years, was held as a one-day pop-up at Chautauqua both as a fundraiser for festival organizers and to showcase the cultural offerings of the Institution’s home region. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


  • Patrons sample the offerings at the Scandinavian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Tuesday in Miller Park, marking the beginning of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2021. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Patrons sample the offerings at the Scandinavian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Tuesday in Miller Park, marking the beginning of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2021. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Patrons sample the offerings at the Scandinavian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Tuesday in Miller Park, marking the beginning of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2021. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Patrons sample the offerings at the Scandinavian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Tuesday in Miller Park, marking the beginning of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2021. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Patrons sample the offerings at the Scandinavian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Tuesday in Miller Park, marking the beginning of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2021. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • The Thule Adult Swedish Folk Dance Team dances with music played by Svenska Spelman under the Culinary Week tent Tuesday in Miller Park. The Scandinavian Festival, usually held annually in nearby Jamestown but canceled for the past two years, was held as a one-day pop-up at Chautauqua both as a fundraiser for festival organizers and to showcase the cultural offerings of the Institution’s home region. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • The Italian Heritage Dancers perform along the brick walk in Miller Park. The Italian Festival — known in Italian as Festa di San Giacomo — was the second local festival that hasn’t operated in two years to be showcased as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Culinary Week 2022. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Italian sausages are charred on the grill during festival. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR
  • Sicily Stainbrook, 4, dances with her mother Kristina Stainbrook as her grandmother Grace Streed, left, looks on during the St. James Italian Festival at CHQ Pop-up Wednesday. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Final 2021 Letter from the President



President Michael E. Hill is joined on the front steps of the President’s Cottage by 5s from Children’s School’s Blue and Yellow Rooms.

Each week I have the privilege of writing a letter to the Chautauqua community exploring what we’ve just experienced and what’s to come as we progress through our Summer Assembly. As we close out each summer together, I have two opportunities to reflect with one: the closing Three Taps of the Gavel address and one last column. I’ll save most of my thoughts for Three Taps (no, not the eatery and gathering space you’ve come to enjoy — the speech)!  

Today, I want to share with you far wiser words than those I might pen. Each summer of my presidency, I have invited young people from Children’s School to the President’s Cottage to share their thoughts on the future of Chautauqua. I have one of their letters framed in my Washington, D.C. office — it takes up a seven-foot-tall pillar. These youngest Chautauquans annually deliver to me what I call the “Children’s 95 Theses.” In their words I see the hopes and dreams of not only today’s Chautauqua, but the Chautauqua of tomorrow.   

For my closing column to you, I share their words, which contain the passion, joy and longing for all we’ve experienced and all we hope to experience. I thank them for their annual reminder of the best in human values. I thank them for grounding me in my promise to be a servant leader for this sacred place. I see in their eyes all the reasons to push forward — even through a global pandemic — to make sure Chautauqua endures. 

Thank you for a great summer. I hope to see you in the Amp for Three Taps (or online if you cannot be with us). To quote these little ones: “We love Chautauqua! And don’t worry, we’re coming back next year … YOU BET!” 

Dear President Hill, 

Thank you for taking the time to meet with your 2021 Children’s School Advisory Board, made up of the 5-year-olds of the Blue and Yellow Rooms. We understand that you’ve had a lot going on in the past couple years and that life during a pandemic is still a bit crazy. With all that in mind, we thought we would carry on the tradition of offering a few revitalizing recommendations, as well as reminders of why this place is so special. We love Chautauqua and are so proud that we can help you make it even more wonderful! 

A few things we love about Chautauqua are …  

  • Being here with our families (especially the ones we haven’t seen!) 
  • The Bell Tower and bats
  • Riding the bus
  • Beaches and boats
  • Riding our bike
  • Playgrounds
  • Reuniting with old friends and making new ones
  • And of course … Children’s School!

Here are some ideas for potential improvements: 

  • More dirt so we can plant more flowers
  • Build a giant playground with a petting zoo
  • Add more trees so people can breathe better
  • Another bookstore with toys, too
  • Boating lessons for kids
  • More children’s books at the library
  • Fewer cars (so we can bike and play safely)
  • Throw Chautauqua an even BIGGER birthday party
  • Even more trees so we can have more books!
  • (Maybe we should make a tree zoo?)

We understand that these may be a bit beyond what you can do, but just in case, we’d like: 

  • To make all the bad people nice
  • Help the homeless
  • Donate toys to kids in the hospital
  • No more pandemics, please
  • Children’s School all year long!

It’s been a long year, and some of us didn’t have the chance to be here last year. While this made us sad, we are so grateful to be here with family and friends, all safe and happy. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help make your job a little easier. Thank you and your staff for all your hard work that allowed us to be here again.

We love Chautauqua! And don’t worry, we’re coming back next year … YOU BET!

Chimemasters celebrate 110th anniversary of iconic Miller Bell Tower



Courtesy of Chautauqua Institution Archives

The Miller Bell Tower, an iconic Chautauqua landmark, has delighted the community for 110 years, playing eclectic and beloved songs for a wide and enthusiastic audience.

One of this season’s chimemasters, Marjorie Kemper, recalls putting together a set of holiday carols to play on the bells one Sunday night this summer, after that evening’s Chautauqua Vespers celebrated Christmas in July. Her regular 10 p.m. performance was met with revelry by community members gathered outside. Kemper played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and people in the crowd were “singing at the top of their lungs,” she said.

Playing popular music and listener requests has been one of Kemper’s favorite aspects about ringing the bells this season. Chautauquans of all ages appreciate the artistry of performing music on the bells; many want to stand to the side and watch as they are played.

“A lot of people come in while I’m playing, and they’ll ask me to play something that they like, or they want me to play Happy Birthday for a friend,” Kemper said.

The bell tower — standing distinctively over the shores of the lake at 75 feet tall — was dedicated at the Old First Night ceremony on Aug. 1, 1911. Built in a campanile style reminiscent of medieval Italy, the tower was remarked upon by Bishop John H. Vincent in his dedication address as “the most prominent object on the horizon.”

The bells in the tower’s open arcade belfry were originally hand-played by levers attached to chains which would pull the clappers against the sides of the bells. The chimes are now operated by remote keyboard, with 12 white keys and only two black, one an F-sharp and one a B-flat.

“So you can only actually play in three keys, C, F and G,” Kemper said. “Maybe a minor key once in a while. But you can’t do anything with a lot of key changes within a song, because you just don’t have the bells.”

Kemper tries her best to accommodate requests as often as she can and satisfy the interests of curious Chautauquans, performing within the restrictions of having only 14 tones to work with. “You can’t play whole tunes on 14 bells,” Kemper said. But discovering what does work on the limited keys is, for her, one of the delights of playing the bells.

“I enjoy choosing things to play and finding out what really sounds good on the bells. It’s a kind of a challenge that I like,” Kemper said.

Since the first Chautauqua Assembly in 1874, bells have been rung on the grounds. Where Chautauquans first gathered on a grandstand near the lake, a single bell heralded the start of daily activities. A 10-bell set of chimes was later donated by early Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle class members and hung in the clock tower of the original Pier Building. These bells were first rung in a program on Aug. 2, 1885. The same program played that year is reprised annually on Bryant Day.

When the pier proved too unstable a location for the bells, shaking the structure as they rang, the current bell tower was constructed, in honor of Lewis Miller. Later added to the belfry were three bells of different tones donated by Miller’s family, and one large bell dedicated in honor of American poet William Cullen Bryant, for whom Bryant Day is named.

Interim Chimemasters Marjorie Kemper and Willie La Favor stand outside the Miller Bell Tower Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Both Kemper and fellow Chautauquan Willie La Favor — a minister of music in Rochester, New York — have been substituting this season for chimemaster Carolyn Benton. Kemper had played the bells before, about 25 years ago, under former chimemaster Tom Wierbowski, and agreed to play again this summer, picking pieces from hymnals, from special requests, or just to fit “whatever the weather is.”

Kemper also enjoys coordinating bell repertoire with the Department of Religion. A hymn may be played during the morning worship service, or a preacher may mention or quote a song in their sermon that can be homaged soon after during one of three daily chime performances. Kemper said she relishes finding “hymns that fit in with what the weekly preacher is talking about.” 

Relating to Week Eight’s focus on the human brain and soul, she heard the hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” referenced by the Rev. Lynn Casteel Harper in her Aug. 15 sermon “The Gift of Wisdom.” The Motet Choir sang the hymn and Kemper was able to play it several times after. The bell tower has a repository of music Kemper will pull from, “and if I have (the tune) down there I’ll use it the next time I (perform). I’ll write the name down so I remember.”

Chautauquans regularly visit the bell tower during performances and remark to Kemper how wonderful it is to have the bells played again, as an integral part of the Chautauqua experience.

“People come in and a lot of them say, ‘Oh, it’s so wonderful to have the bells played again,’ ” Kemper said. “And somebody will say, ‘Would you play “Finlandia?” Because I’d like to wake up to that tomorrow morning.’” Kemper is happy to oblige a request such as that any time.

Alumni Association of CLSC raises record-breaking amount at auction

CLSC 00843d


“I am not a writer. I am a reader,” said Amber Sipior prior to coming to Chautauqua and taking a writing class on a scholarship from the Alumni Association of the CLSC. 

This year, the Alumni Association of the CLSC held their auction on Sunday, Aug. 1 in the Hall of Philosophy due to colossal thunderstorms. This year’s auction committee members were: Pat McDonald, Carol Benroth, Carol Collins, Debra Dinnocenzo, Caroline Young, Josette Rolley and Caroline Bissel. Together they worked to raise a record-breaking $12,000 for the Alumni Association of the CLSC scholarship fund. 

Last year, the auction moved to an online format, which made the process more difficult for the organizers. Despite all the extra steps, the auction managed to raise $3,000. According to committee members McDonald and Benroth, this year was more successful, partially due to the auction being back in person and because there was “more personal interaction within the committee,” Benroth said.

According to McDonald, the funds raised from the auction sponsor high school students, teachers and librarians from outside of Chautauqua to come to the grounds and take literary arts classes. She views it as a kind of outreach program and as a way to make the surrounding communities feel more welcome on the grounds. 

As a part of the scholarship, the teacher or librarian receives a parking and gate pass, has the cost of their classes fully covered, has their Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle membership paid for and receives a $100 gift card to the Chautauqua Bookstore to cover the cost of materials they might need for the class. The Alumni Association is also taking steps to make it so that the classes that the teachers take will count toward their continuing education.

According to McDonald, the money raised will fully fund the program this year and allow it to expand next year, something that the Alumni Association has been wanting to do. They want to work up to having 16 participants each year, and McDonald feels that they can fund a program of that size “into perpetuity.”

Both Benroth and McDonald view this program as a continuation of Chautauqua’s original purpose of educating Sunday School teachers. It has evolved to be more far-reaching, but the idea of helping to educate educators and create a culture of learning continues. 

“It made a huge impact on people … who didn’t have access to libraries and didn’t really have access to books in those days,” McDonald said. “So I see it as an important thing to continue, but try to make it fit for modern life. Now, we can have Zoom groups; you could have a (CLSC) circle that you weren’t even in the same town and you could get together.”

Benroth would like to thank the people who made donations to the auction. What it takes to have a successful auction, she said, is “having lovely things that people want to bid on.” Both women felt that people were especially generous this year. One of the items that stood out to them was a wooden, hand-carved, tri-fold screen that ended up going to the Athenaeum Hotel. 

Even though the auction this year took a lot of hard work and flexibility to pull off, both women agree that the payoff was worth it. One of the teachers, Betsy Rowe-Baehr, who went through the program called being at Chautauqua and taking classes “transformative.” It is hearing things like that from scholarship recipients, McDonald said, that really makes doing the auction a “heartwarming” experience. 

2021 edition of literary journal features water as unifying theme



“Chautauqua: Water”

Water is one of the planet’s most valuable resources and is a constant presence in people’s lives. This presence is what made it a perfect choice for the theme of the 2021 edition of the Chautauqua literary journal, titled Chautauqua: Water.

Every year for the past 18 years, Chautauqua has put out its own literary journal, featuring work from both professional and amateur writers. Included in this year’s edition is a selection of works featuring “Young Voices,” ages 12 to 18. 

This year’s journal features the theme of water. Since Jill Gerard took over the production of the journal from the first editor, Richard Forester, she and co-editor Philip Gerard have had a theme for each edition. According to Jill Gerard, this is so they can bring a sense of the Chautauqua season to the journal, matching the idea of a vertical theme for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, with each week having its own topic.

The journal is unique because it is produced in partnership with University of North Carolina, Wilmington, students, as a way for them to experience working on a publication and going through the process of putting together a book. According to Gerard, deciding on the theme is one of the most fun parts of the class. They sit in a conference room and brainstorm 30 to 40 possibilities and narrow it down from there. 

The group — which is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as professionals — wants to select a theme that will bring in an interesting assortment of submissions but also can find a way to tie into Chautauqua Institution. In the case of Chautauqua: Water, the group had in mind the environmental initiatives and the programs in place to improve the water quality of the lake. One of the biggest advocates for the theme was Lindsey Lake, who did the cover and book design. 

Lake — on top of being an advocate for the theme and the environment — found the art that was used for the book’s cover. The cover comes from the combination of different woodcuttings that accompanied the book De Arte Natandi, by Everard Digby. Lake printed outline recreations of the woodcuttings and watercolored them by hand in order to bring more color and life to the cover. 

“I think that we really did get some interesting and vastly different takes on things,” Gerard said. “One of my favorite ones is the essay … about going to the mikvah, which is a Jewish ritual bath. It was such a different essay. So I was really happy when that one came across the transom.” 

The journal includes poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction short stories between its pages, with content that ranges from swamps to coastlines to tear-streaked faces. Although the final product is one that Gerard and her students are all very proud of, it was not easy to produce. 

According to Gerard, production usually looks like chairs crowded around a conference room table with manuscripts being passed back and forth across it, and potential cover ideas blanketing the walls. This year, like so many other things, production of the journal was moved online, which was a difficult transition for Gerard and her team. 

“Everyone really just works with the best possible attitude and that allowed Zoom to work pretty well for us,” Gerard said. “… Because we could share the screens, we were able to pretty well replicate our editorials and work through talking through submissions.”

The copy editing and fact-checking process, as well as the cover selection, was much more difficult — and time-consuming — to do online. According to Gerard, the screen sharing feature was instrumental to the production process but was still limiting because only one screen could be shared at a time. 

“It was a willingness to just muster on that kept us going,” Gerard said. 

Copies of Chautauqua: Water are available for purchase in the Chautauqua Bookstore as well as available for order online. 

School of Dance’s Bonnefoux reflects on years with students



Chautauqua School of Dance students perform “When We Gather Beneath the Big Sky.” KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

After 38 years spent fostering excellence, School of Dance Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux is retiring. Throughout his time at Chautauqua, he spent his career emphasizing the importance of preparing the next generation of dancers for success, leaving a sizable impact in Chautauqua that will forever be remembered. 

At 14, Bonnefoux began his professional career and joined the Paris Opera Ballet, named danseur étoile (star dancer) at just 21 years old. Serving as a principal dancer for seven years, he trained with the likes of Serge Peretti, Gérard Mulys and Raymond Franquetti.  

French by birth, Bonnefoux decided to move to the United States to join the New York City Ballet in 1970. He stayed with the company for 10 years, studying with world-renowned Artistic Director George Balanchine, Andrei Kramarevsky and Stanley Williams. 

Throughout his time as a dancer, Bonnefoux also danced with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Ballet) and Bolshoi Ballet, as well as the Royal Danish Ballet.

It was in 1980 that Bonnefoux realized his true lifelong dream, training young dancers as a choreographer, teacher and coach.

Alongside his career at the Institution, Bonnefoux also served as chairman of Indiana University’s dance department from 1985 to 1996 and as artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet from 1996 to 2016. His choreography includes works commissioned by the New York City Ballet, the Lincoln Center Institute, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

“From the very beginning, I understood the need for dancers to actually perform, not just take classes, incorporating choreographers that I love, as well as top guest teachers,” Bonnefoux said. “Part of the legacy is that as a teacher, you really trust your students — you give them the chance to gain confidence and find themselves throughout the summer, and you trust their willingness to learn and take classes, while also providing the right people that they can truly learn from, fast.”

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux

Bonnefoux also spoke about dancers’ progression throughout the summer, as well as the faculty behind the magic.

“The (ballet company) directors will call me and say that the dancers that have progressed the most are from Chautauqua, leading them to continue sending students year after year,” Bonnefoux said. “Patricia McBride, director of ballet studies and master teacher, is so generous, caring, trusting — the energy she gives her students is so unique; I am so proud of her and her work passing on the tradition of Balanchine, which she knows probably better than anyone else.” 

Bonnefoux also recognized the coaching style utilized at the School of Dance, working to build mutual respect and assurance with the dancers. 

“It is an honor to have started coaching that works very well with the students,” Bonnefoux said. “We have two students an hour that come together and work together closely, with 40 students over the course of the weeks — the goal is to become close enough to the dancers and gain the trust to continue to help them grow and solve problems by the end of the summer.”

Bonnefoux extended valuable advice to young dancers and Chautauquans alike, emphasizing the importance in trusting the process.

“Students are always so worried about what is not working that sometimes they forget the things that are working, as well as just how lucky we are to be so close to the music here in Chautauqua,” Bonnefoux said. “We are not here just to show the tradition — we are also here to bring in new voices to show the dancers what they want and lack, while discovering who they truly are and the types of dancing they really enjoy.”

A time for ‘Reunions’: Country music star Isbell, 400 Unit headline last Friday of season



Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit’s latest album, Reunions, was released on streaming services May 15, 2020 — but that wasn’t the album’s debut to the world.

No, Isbell and his band opted to release the album a week early, exclusively to independent record stores, to support those small businesses during the first weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I thought about independent record stores and the fact that they’re suffering like all small businesses right now,” Isbell told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly on “All Things Considered.” “But even more so, when somebody puts an album out early via streaming platforms, it takes away an opportunity for them to sell the record, in a lot of cases. So instead of putting it out early I thought, well, we’ll stick to the same timeline, but maybe it would be helpful to those folks if we put it out just through independent record stores a week early. I think it was.”

Isbell and The 400 Unit were set to tour last summer following the release of Reunions, but like countless other acts, pushed the tour to 2021, with a stop at Chautauqua at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

Isbell is known for his work as both a solo singer-songwriter and guitarist, and his work with The 400 Unit and Drive-By Truckers. He’s been nominated for 16 Americana Music Honors & Awards (he’s won nine of those nominations) and has won four Grammy Awards. Of his seven studio albums, three have reached the top of the U.S. country, folk and rock charts, and Reunions is the fourth album he’s released with The 400 Unit — a band that includes Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires, who’s also part of the country music group The Highwomen.

The Dave Cobb-produced Reunions is a collection of 10 “expertly crafted tunes,” Andrew Barker wrote for Variety.

“Isbell’s brilliance has become so commonplace that one risks taking it for granted,” Barker wrote.

Initially, Isbell told Kelly, when he was starting work on Reunions, he was “just trying to write a bunch of good songs, and I think that’s always how it starts for me.”

“I don’t go in with much of a concept because I feel like that sometimes can distract me from doing the real work at hand, which is just writing the best songs I can and documenting where I am at that point in my life,” he said.

After writing a few songs, he told Kelly, he started noticing patterns. 

“I started seeing the fact that I was going back in time and reconnecting, at least on a psychological level, with a lot of the people, a lot of the relationships that I had growing up and when I was younger and before I got sober,” he said in May 2020. “I got sober eight-and-a-half years ago. For a long spell, between the time when I got sober and just the last couple years, it was really difficult for me to revisit those times in a way that was anything less than judgmental. Because I had to look back at myself with disdain and not risk turning back into the person I used to be.”

But, Isbell told Kelly, he realized that after years of sobriety and working with a therapist, he was feeling “not necessarily nostalgia, but more of a connection with the person I was a decade or two decades ago. I felt more comfortable and safer going back into that relationship and not judging myself, but coming to terms with the fact that I had good things to offer as well as bad things in those days.”

Isbell has been vocal in recent weeks about new COVID-19 protocols for his upcoming shows; he announced on Aug. 9 that all attendees at live shows would need to provide proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test prior to entry, and he’s backed out of performances where the venues wouldn’t comply. That decision has drawn strong reactions both in support and in opposition.

Still, he told Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone that when he and The 400 Unit took the stage in Austin, Texas, hours after he’d announced the protocols, he knew he’d made the right call.

“As soon as we walked onstage, we could tell that the audience was full-on excited,” he said. “They felt more comfortable and they had a better time. It was one of the best shows that I’ve played, because the energy in the room was so good. That, to me, was evidence that we had made the right decision.”

That decision extends to Chautauqua, where the Institution — at Isbell’s request — is strongly encouraging wearing face masks at the concert. Anyone not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the start of the show. Third-party reports of negative results within the previous three days, if a PCR test, and six hours, if a rapid test, will be accepted. At-home test results won’t be accepted. Since this is a requirement of the band, there are no exceptions.

“I don’t feel right onstage while I think people might be getting deathly ill in the crowd. I don’t think it’s fair to the audience or to the crews at the venues or to my crew to put people in a situation where they’re possibly risking their lives or taking the virus home to their kids, or they go to school and give it to other kids,” Isbell told Hudak. “It just didn’t feel right. … I think if we hadn’t put these kinds of restrictions in place and we didn’t hold the line on it, I would feel like I was taking advantage of people while I’m doing my job. I don’t ever want to do that, because that little thing that I love the most about the job that I have is the fact that it spreads something positive. I want to protect that. I don’t want to spread positive tests — I want to spread positive vibes.”

Winthrop Rockefeller’s Hill describes push for equitable Arkansas in final AAHH talk




The Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill won’t stop until her mission for equity is complete. 

Born a half-hour north of Little Rock in Conway, Arkansas, Hill is an equity officer for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, where she pushes for a narrative change and community voice in her community. 

Hill is the final speaker for the 2021 African American House Lecture Series. Her lecture today is based on Week Nine’s theme “Resilience.” It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.

“I really think that the question of equity is about meeting people where they are with exactly what they need so they can thrive and prosper,” Hill said. “For far too long in Arkansas, and really across our nation, there have been groups of people that have been left out of the conversation about what their thriving would look like.”

At the foundation, she and others develop grants and partnerships with innovative and community driven organizations, she said. The foundation’s mission is to pursue economic, educational, social, ethnic and racial equity for all Arkansans, according to its website.

Since taking on this role in July 2019, Hill’s learned the power of trust in communities that are forgotten by funders and community leaders, she said. 

Critically listening for impactful changes in people’s lives goes beyond monetary investments, but also includes relationships that help people see models of innovation in other places, she said. 

“These are things that really just invigorate me to continue being in grantmaking,” she said.

Narrative change is a big part of the foundation’s strategy, particularly stories that influence what people believe about themselves, culture and the economy that impact how people vote and ultimately policies that are enacted, she said. 

One of the foundation’s newest projects is called Reimagine Arkansas. 

“(It) seeks to tell the stories of underheard people in Arkansas,” she said, “and share them in accessible ways so that narrative change can become an integral piece in what’s happening in local communities.”

For today’s lecture, Hill will discuss revolutionary truth telling and radical futures with a focus on resilience, she said. 

“In our American conscience, we love to talk about resilience,” she said. “We love a good bootstrap story. We love to talk about the underdog coming back from defeat to win the championship and how resilient those folks normally are. But there’s this other side of resilience that means a person has had to develop a set of skills to cope when there’s an unnecessary system of fairness and harsh treatment … to go up against.”

These stories may cause people to reevaluate other stories about American values, which Hill said might actually be troublesome and harmful if not examined more closely. 

Furthermore, she hopes people will walk away questioning things that were never questioned before. Most stories are told by people in places of power, and if people aren’t careful, they can influence and determine what the listeners believe, she said. 

“My hope is that people will begin to ask different questions about the stories we’ve all been told, and ask who is implicated in those stories, and ask if those people have been able to tell those stories on behalf of themselves,” she said. “A lot of times, when people who have been the most resilient begin telling their stories, they might tell the story differently than someone would tell it who is in a seat of power.”

Amped up: The Roots & Trombone Shorty

The Roots take center stage for their double-bill performance with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue Saturday in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


Bonnefoux announces retirement after 38 seasons leading resident dance programs at Chautauqua


Chautauqua Institution on Friday announced that Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux will retire following 38 seasons leading Chautauqua’s resident dance programs, currently in the role of director of the School of Dance. Bonnefoux’s legacy at Chautauqua includes hundreds of alumni who have gone on to dance with renowned companies around the United States and the world.

A large Chautauqua community celebration of Bonnefoux will be planned for 2022, and include many alumni of the resident dance programs.

“Jean-Pierre has revolutionized the summer dance program experience by focusing on performance and giving students exposure to a variety of choreographic styles to help them prepare for company careers,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, and interim senior vice president and chief program officer. “The list of alumni who credit their success to their time at Chautauqua and working with Jean-Pierre is simply stunning. That many of them continue to perform and teach here regularly is a testament to his many gifts and generous spirit. We will miss Jean-Pierre, though we know Chautauqua will still hold a special place in his life, and we dedicate ourselves to building on this extraordinary legacy.”

Following his arrival at Chautauqua in 1983, Bonnefoux quickly made his mark as an innovator in the world of dance festivals. Among his many feats include establishing an annual teacher symposium, using Chautauqua’s setting and convening power to build a network of fellow dance artists and educators; he established the Artist Teacher Award with the late Chautauquan Kay Logan to recognize exceptional dance educators. A hallmark of Bonnefoux’s program for dance students is the emphasis on performance.

This “makes Chautauqua somewhat different from most summer schools,” according to a 2000 New York Times piece about Bonnefoux and dance at Chautauqua. “Although the students … have a full program of daily ballet, jazz and modern classes — with an extra point work and variation class in the afternoon for the older girls — the focus of their stay in Chautauqua is learning and rehearsing the ballets that they will perform before an audience.”

Above, Chautauqua School of Dance Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux coaches student Nina Giraldo in July 2018 in Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio. At right, Bonnefoux works with a student in 2013. RILEY ROBINSON/DAILY FILE PHOTO

Bonnefoux also created and for many years led the Chautauqua Ballet Company, bringing together an exciting and diverse group of dancers and choreographers and providing employment during layoff seasons. Though no longer a resident Chautauqua program, the company was another outlet for the Institution to connect with professional dancers.

Bonnefoux’s longtime partner and collaborator Patricia McBride, long a muse of George Ballanchine, also has joined him as master teacher on the School of Dance faculty throughout his tenure.

Bonnefoux retired in 2017 as artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet. Previously known as the North Carolina Dance Theatre, the company for many years enjoyed an annual summer residency at Chautauqua, and still appears frequently among the several companies the Institution invites to perform each summer.

Week Nine Letter from the President




If there was ever a word to describe the fact that we are at Week Nine of our Summer Assembly, “resilience” may be the perfect choice. For all we have been through over the past year and a half to get to this place, where we can conclude an entirely in-person season, it seems more than appropriate that we conclude our Summer Assembly exploring this one word that says so much more about you, me and our global society.

This week we look at some compelling questions: What drives people to keep going when forces outside their control work against them? And what does that tell us about our humanity and hope for the future? We close our 2021 season looking at the resilience that emerged during a tumultuous 2020. From a global pandemic to the quest for racial equality, we reflect on a revealing, historic period by lifting up the stories and the lessons of those who refused to give up, give in or go away.

Our guides this week could not be more perfect. Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who covers conflict zones across the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. In 2000, she traveled to Afghanistan to document life under the Taliban. Given the past week’s events, I can only imagine what she might share with us. Francoise Adan is the Chief Whole Health and Wellbeing Officer for University Hospitals and the director for the UH Connor Integrative Health Network. She will explore a model of resilience she formalized for health care and how we might think about resilience in the midst of a global pandemic. Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian of the 20th century with specializations in African-American history, the modern African Diaspora, and women’s and gender studies. She will bring all of this to a riveting discussion of resistance and resilience in the face of racism. And we end the week with Evan Osnos, a National Book Award-winning author and staff writer for The New Yorker, who will take all we’ve been through to discuss the resilience of American Democracy and where we go from here.

Sometimes our morning lecture theme is so appropriate, it only makes sense to carry it forward into our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, which also explores the topic of resilience this week, and the questions remain the same. In these set of conversations, we add a faith dimension through the words and stories of Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Meyers, who has served as the Rabbi and Cantor for the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the site of one of the worst attacks on a Jewish place of worship in the United States. Irish-born international bestseller Colum McCann who uses modern-day narratives to explore the resilience from the grief of tremendous loss, and we conclude with a Chautauqua — and personal! — favorite, Diana Butler Bass. Dr. Bass is an award-winning author, popular speaker and preacher, and one of America’s most trusted commentators on religion and contemporary spirituality. I know her words of wisdom will be a fitting and moving coda to this group’s reflections.

And while we are in this deep and appropriate discussion about resilience, we know one of the tools is to have fun and to experience joy! We will get that this week with a dream lineup of four great big-name concerts: The Roots + Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on Saturday, Old Crow Medicine Show on Thursday, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on Friday, and Smokey Robinson next Saturday, Aug. 28. I’m truly excited to see Jason Isbell, as my brother-in-law Paul has been promoting him at family dinners for a while. This week we also continue to build the impressive roster of guest dance companies that Chautauqua engages, as Parsons Dance visits the Amphitheater stage Monday evening. Our own Chautauqua Theater Company closes Thurgood with two performances this weekend. And as we progress through the week we mark the closing of the amazing exhibitions at our two world-class Chautauqua Visual Arts galleries — be sure to walk through the Fowler-Kellogg and Strohl art centers before they close toward the end of the week (you can find individual exhibition closing dates in this week’s yellow program listing insert).

Finally, I hope you will enjoy the bounty of our home Chautauqua County region as presented in our Culinary Week celebration at Miller Park, near Miller Bell Tower. We’re honored to provide a space for two local festivals — Jamestown’s Scandinavian Festival and St. James Italian Festival — to fundraise and showcase their wonderful food and culture, not to mention fund-raise, after two years of cancelations. Plus, we’ll have many of the beloved food, drink and craft vendors you may have come to know in previous years’ festivals on Bestor Plaza. (And if you need to work off any of those fantastic food offerings, don’t forget about the myriad ways you can experience Chautauqua’s recreation pillar!)

While I know it took great resilience to get to this place in our Chautauqua journey, being back together amidst the backdrop of a continuing pandemic, I also know that it’s been a joy for our team to be with you again. I’ll have one last chance to reflect in my last column of the season, this one bringing the words from our youngest Chautauquans. Watching them makes being resilient worth it all!

Have a great Week Nine, friends!

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