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James Hejduk dead at 79

November 1, 2023
James Hejduk
James Hejduk

James Hejduk, 79, died September 18 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Born July 26, 1944, in Madison, Ohio, he began playing church services as a ninth grader in 1958 in his hometown. Hejduk earned degrees from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey, and Indiana University, Bloomington. He was awarded a succession of Rockefeller grants for post-graduate studies in choral conducting at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the Aspen Choral Institute, where he also sang in its chamber choir. He was the first musician awarded a Klingenstein Fellowship at Columbia University, where he studied organ and developed an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on J. S. Bach. He further studied choral conducting in Cambridge, UK, and organ in Paris, France, with Marcel Dupré. 

Hejduk’s teaching career began at The Millbrook School in New York State in 1968. He began his 15-year tenure as director of choral music and chapel organist at Milton Academy in 1971, followed by 12 years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1986–1998, where he was associate professor of music. Returning to the Boston area in 1998, he joined the faculty at Belmont Hill School as its director of music and resumed his position as organist-choirmaster at the Congregational Church of Needham, Massachusetts, that he held from 1974–1986. He served churches in Newark, New Jersey; Bloomington, Indiana; Lincoln, Nebraska; and New York City before moving to Massachusetts. 

Hejduk was a past dean of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and twice served on its executive committee. He was a past president of the Nebraska Choral Directors Association and served the Massachusetts ACDA as repertoire and standards chair for music and worship. He also served a term as a member of the choral panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Hejduk sang four seasons with the Robert Shaw Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall and prepared the Beethoven Ninth Symphony for Shaw for the dedication of the Lied Center for the Performing Arts at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L). With his choirs from Milton, Nebraska, and Belmont Hill, Hejduk toured Romania (three times), the Czech Republic, Latvia, England, Italy, as well as Québec and New York City. His University Singers from UN-L were invited to perform at several ACDA and MENC conventions. Locally, he performed organ recitals at Needham, Milton Academy, Memorial Church at Harvard University, Trinity Church, Boston, Old West Church, Boston, and The Brooks School. 

After returning to Lincoln to retire, Hejduk maintained a life largely centered on music. He served two terms as sub-dean of the Lincoln Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and followed that with three years’ service on its executive board. He also made semi-annual trips to Princeton, New Jersey, where he served a six-year term on the alumni council of Westminster Choir College. He was also the class agent and fund-raiser for college’s class of 1966. Hejduk was organist for many years at Lincoln’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, and continued to attend conferences, symposia, and conventions allied to choral and organ music. For the Lincoln Organ Showcase he served as a co-chair of its board. 

James Hejduk is survived by his sister Laurel (Jim) Van Slyke; sister-in-law Kathy Hejduk; a nephew David (Sara) Van Slyke; and a niece Sandra (Joe) Todd. A graveside service was held at Fairview Cemetery, Madison, Ohio, on October 14. A memorial service was held at First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on October 29. Memorial gifts may be made to the music programs of Belmont Hill School, Milton Academy, or The Congregational Church of Needham, Massachusetts.


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