John J. Binsfeld, III, died in Ocean City, New Jersey, on September 23. Born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, on June 4, 1944, he began as a young child studying keyboard with Lotta Young and Barbara Hartenbauer. While still a student at Pottstown High School, he became minister of music at Trinity Reformed Church where he served the congregation from April 1961 to June 1964.
At the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he won a full scholarship at age 17 to study organ with Alexander McCurdy. In 1964, while studying at Curtis, he was selected as organist and choirmaster at historic Old Christ Church, Philadelphia, where he remained for 45 years until his retirement in 2009. In addition to Sunday worship services, he fostered many musical events at Christ Church including a summer organ recital series that provided an outlet for many organists, established an international recital series, as well as the First Friday Recital Series. He also encouraged many established musical groups to curate their own series at Christ Church.
John Binsfeld’s work in the concert world as well as on the lecture circuit as a spokesperson for music in the church enhanced the reputation of Christ Church and aided in putting it on the musical map. Not very many members of his parish were aware of John’s outside musical activities due to his insistence on keeping a low profile, believing that the ministry of music was the most important voice. His ambassadorship of goodwill regarding Christ Church extended nationally and internationally, always the champion of worship as opposed to performance.
During those Philadelphia years, Binsfeld was a staff recitalist at the then John Wanamaker store in Center City Philadelphia, where he was heard in concert weekly. In his retirement John resided in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he served frequently as a guest organist at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, Ocean City.
John Binsfeld influenced a generation of private organ students and singers whom he mentored. He taught on the organ faculties of the Archdiocesan Seminary of St. Charles Borromeo in Wynwood and of Philadelphia’s Temple University. He served on the committee for the International Congress of Organists and was a member of the American Guild of Organists.
John J. Binsfeld, III, is survived by brothers John Frantz and his wife Lurene of State College, Pennsylvania, and Richard Frantz and his wife Mary of Pottstown, Pennsylvania; his sister Pat Hagey of Pottstown; and extended family. A funeral service from Christ Church, Philadelphia, was held on October 3.