Nunc dimittis: James P. Autenrith and John Kuzma

October 21, 2021

James P. Autenrith

James P. Autenrith, 97, of Potsdam, New York, died September 20 in Canton, New York. Born in New Berlin, New York, on October 1, 1923, he was raised in Newport and graduated from West Canada Valley Central School. He served in World War II as a chaplain’s assistant in Mannheim, Germany, and was assigned to play the organ in Heidelberg at the funeral of General George S. Patton.

James Autenrith held a 46-year career including teaching at Michigan State University, East Lansing, and at the State University of New York Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. He also served as church organist in Gloversville, Utica, and Auburn, New York, as well as in Battle Creek and East Lansing, Michigan. Autenrith was organist and choir director at the Potsdam United Methodist Church for 35 years and played many organ recitals during this time, including performances at conventions of the Organ Historical Society.

James P. Autenrith is survived by his wife of 68 years, Audrey, as well as two sisters, Joan Stack of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Betsy Newman of Newport, New York, and nieces and nephews. A private service took place at Bayside Cemetery, Potsdam. Memorial gifts may be made to the James Autenrith Scholarship at Crane School of Music, c/o Potsdam College Foundation, 44 Pierrepont Avenue, Potsdam, New York 13676, or by visiting potsdam.edu/give.

John Kuzma

John Kuzma, 75, music educator, composer, arranger, organist, conductor, and philosopher, died August 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born March 16, 1946, in Cincinnati, Kuzma began composing and arranging music as a high school student. Having taught himself to play the keyboard in grade school, he began study at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and won a scholarship at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, where he studied with David Craighead. A Fulbright scholarship took him to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a year’s organ work with Finn Viderø before returning to the United States for graduate studies in organ and composition at the University of Illinois. There his organ teacher was Jerald Hamilton.

After graduation, he served as organist and choir director for St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, San Diego, founder and music director of the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, a teacher at San Diego State University and at University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a staff musical arranger at the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California. He became music director of the American Boy Choir in Princeton, New Jersey, before moving to Denver, Colorado, in 1987 to serve as minister of music at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, a post he held for nearly three decades prior to his retirement in 2015.

Kuzma’s arrangements and compositions have been performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Chorus, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Denver Brass, Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, Ars Nova Singers, American Boy Choir, and Dallas and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. Many of his compositions and arrangements have been performed around the world, and he was the arranger and composer of music for Pope St. John Paul II’s visit to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. During his tenure at Montview, he established the Montview Conservatory of Music and began a series of classical music concerts for children that reached more than 14,000 Denver students over several years. His creation and funding of the Montview Music Endowment continues to support Montview’s music program and to pay professional musicians to perform in Montview’s concerts. Kuzma was a Colorado Arts Council Music Composition Fellowship winner in 1999.

John Kuzma is survived by his wife, Bess. Memorial gifts may be given to the music program at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia Street, Denver, Colorado 80220. For more information: montview.org/music.