John Kuzma, music educator, composer, arranger, organist, conductor, and philosopher, died August 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kuzma began composing and arranging music as a high school student in Cincinnati. Having taught himself to play the keyboard in grade school, he began study at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and won a scholarship to study at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York. A Fulbright scholarship took him to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a year’s organ study before returning to the United States for graduate studies at the University of Illinois.
He was 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, 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.
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.
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