Morristown has a new international champion: Josh Stafford, St. Peter’s organist

Josh Stafford of St. Peter's gets a hug after winning top prize in the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.
Josh Stafford of St. Peter's gets a hug after winning top prize in the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.
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It’s like the Super Bowl of organ contests.

And Josh Stafford, music director of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, has won it.

Stafford clinched the $40,000 Pierre S. du Pont First Prize– the largest cash prize in the organ world–at the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition in Pennsylvania over the weekend.

He also won three years of concert management with Phillip Truckenbrod Artists.

Josh Stafford of St. Peter's, second from right, won top prize in the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.
Josh Stafford of St. Peter’s, second from right, won top prize in the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.

The 28-year-old Jamestown, NY, native honed his skills at the Curtis Institute of Music and Yale University.  He came to St. Peter’s in 2013.

“We are so proud of him!  Proud of Josh, and deeply grateful that we have such music in our own church for our worship and life together,” said St. Peter’s Rector Janet Broderick, who attended Stafford’s semifinals performance of Carnival Overture.

In the finals, he played Louis Vierne’s Symphony No. 4. The next morning, he was behind the 1930 Skinner organ at St. Peter’s playing a Bach cantata at Sunday services.

“He gets the best out of any instrument he plays,” and that goes for his choral students, too, Broderick said.

Josh Stafford, winner of the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.
Josh Stafford, winner of the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.

“Some people say he is a ‘Child-Whisperer,’ because when he trains our choristers they follow his lead wherever he goes musically.  They learn to love music and to experience the joy of liturgy.  Josh has 50 members in the St. Peter’s choirs, all of whom would say they look forward to every rehearsal and service,” the minister said.

You can watch Stafford’s winning performance and the award ceremony here.

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