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What’s Happening in My Next Chapter

What’s Happening in My Next Chapter
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 James Walker

Greetings from Argentina and Uruguay — one of our several adventures this year. I started writing this post in bustling Buenos Aires and completed the post after a walk along the Atlantic Ocean, as it meets el Río de la Plata. A very cold, windy spring day in Uruguay inspires my heart in transition.

Other than a week here and there, over the years, I’ve never traveled in the fall, winter or spring. I am thrilled and extraordinarily grateful to now have the opportunity to do so.

This has been an amazing few months, beginning the transition from decades of full-​time work in the church, returning to life as a freelance conductor, organist, pianist, and consultant. 

To have such a healthy leave-​taking from All Saints Church, Pasadena, after 34 years of musical leadership, continues to be a huge gift. The final four months of my tenure were filled with rich memories, and the celebrations of June — from the astonishing choirs’ concert, to parties large and small, to my final rehearsals and Sunday mornings with Canterbury and Coventry choirs — capped my tenure with great beauty and unforgettable, deeply moving experiences.

And I was exhausted at the end of all that. The months of July and August provided the time to simply stop and rest.

My Next Chapter is emerging, with several engagements, judiciously scheduled. 

Accompanying while reading the conductor’s mind

I was delighted when Zanaida Robles invited me to collaborate with her, from the piano, for the annual choir retreat of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church Choir of Santa Monica. Zanaida and I have worked together for 15 years, dating back to her starting as soprano soloist of Coventry Choir at All Saints, and it was a thrill to witness the great work Zanaida is doing with this choir, as I assisted from the piano bench. 

I truly enjoy accompanying a fine choir under the direction of an excellent conductor, as it keeps me on my toes — reading the conductor’s mind — and it is a joy to make music in this way.

Travel plans for the fall

We are able to travel extensively this year as my spouse, Dr. Douglas Duno, is on sabbatical leave from teaching the entire academic year. We began in September with a thrilling two weeks of full immersion into the glories of nature in Park City, Utah, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks and Jackson, Wyoming. We had never been to any of these locations and were able to bask in the beauty of creation.

Additional trips this fall include Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico. In addition to experiencing these countries as tourists, I will be taking a two-​week language course at Academia Uruguay in Montevideo, while Douglas studies the history, arts and culture of Uruguay, as part of his sabbatical research.

Keeping it fresh

I continue to teach organ privately when I am in town and will be giving a workshop for the Long Beach Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in March — “Service Playing: Keeping it Fresh!” 

I will be conducting the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, for three weeks in January, as their distinguished director, Greg Norton travels to New Zealand for a special celebration. I so look forward to this block of time with this excellent church choir and look forward to other similar opportunities in the future.

I’m always excited to be part of the organ marathons at St. Cyril’s Church, Encino, and will be participating in the Bach Marathon on Sunday, May 20, 2018. And I am in conversation with a couple choral groups looking to schedule concerts that include major choral pieces with organ accompaniment, one of my joyful specialties.

An Easter with cherry blossoms

Other trips planned are to Cuba for two weeks and Japan for three weeks. We’ll be in Japan for the blooming of the cherry blossoms, which happens to coincide with Holy Week and Easter, 2018. So instead of singing “Bloom in every meadow, leaf on every bough” on Easter Sunday, we’ll be witnessing the spectacular signs of new life in this dramatically different way.

When we return from all this travel in late April, I plan to regularize my schedule and be available to perform with singers, instrumentalists and ensembles on a regular basis. Some solo performances are in the pipeline, as well. Of course, all that takes significant practice time, so I look forward to returning to a rigorous practice schedule.
I have also found several opportunities in the past few months to advise individuals and consult institutions about personal careers and church music programs, all of which I have found immensely gratifying.

So, no time for sitting back … Full steam ahead.


  1. Mike Weed 4 months ago

    Isn’t it just amazing where life takes you when you leave yourself open? Just a simple nudge takes you in so many wonderful directions. Thank you God.

  2. Leslie Thomas 4 months ago

    For those of us who are trying to meet deadlines I’m almost inclined to say that this is “TMI- Too Much Information.” -:) Congratulations to you and Douglas for setting a great example to those of us that are looking forward to similar experiences in the near future. Hey, I look forward to catching up with the two of you when you’re back in the States to change wardrobes for your next adventure! Be well, Love and peace to both of you.

  3. Judith R. Stevens 4 months ago

    It all sounds wonderful, James…a perfect combination of rest and rejuvenation, and musical discovery and exploration! So very glad to hear about all of the upcoming projects and performances. I love that you are open to whatever blessings life has to offer! Thank you for keeping me “in the loop.” Life is indeed rich, isn’t it?
    All the best to you both,

  4. Teresa Anderson-Dvoracek 4 months ago

    Leaving yourself open allows life to take new and interesting twists and turns as yours has. What an inspiring trip your both having. Hugs and best regards to you and Douglas. Teresa

  5. Gerti Garner 4 months ago

    Thank you, James, for this update. Your story is inspiring and you are writing a great next chapter. Much love to you and Douglas, Gerti

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