ESTMIM presents a concert with Jonathan Kleefield

Jonathan Kleefield24

Born in 1946 in Kew Gardens, New York, Jonathan Kleefield was immersed in music immediately due to its omnipresent status in his home. While his father was a physician, he was also an expert pianist and organist, and his mother, an attorney, was a proficient vocalist. His home contained a Hammond Organ and Steinway M piano. Recognizing their son’s musical abilities at about age 4, Jon began six years of formal piano lessons from a local, inspirational teacher, and engaged in an additional year of piano study while in college. However, his only organ instruction came from his dad, who also taught him a large part of the Great American Songbook, as well as numerous musicals of the time. Jon was drafted as accompanist to various school musical productions throughout elementary, junior and high school, and served as a music counselor at a few summer camps. However, his studies in medicine precluded further, frequent, musical participation, aside from gaining access to the huge Austin classical pipe organ at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also studied medicine in the late 1960’s. Jon spent his entire professional life, including service in the US Navy, as a neuroradiologist, eventually residing in Boston where he taught medical students, interns and residents at Beth Israel Lahey Medical Center for approximately 40 years, retiring in 2021. He also was fortunate enough to find his wife of nearly 40 years, Sharon, who has engaged in medical consulting throughout the world and now is Editor-in-Chief of an on-line health care journal.

Contact with a “real” Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ first occurred in San Francisco in 1969, with sporadic forays on those incredible instruments in various restaurants, during the “pizza organ” craze that was a largely West Coast phenomenon. When he moved to Massachusetts for further neuroradiology study in 1976, he became a member of the local chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, but receiving only occasional access to theatre organs for playing purposes. His passion to perform more regularly began just as he was about to retire, culminating in his appointment as Resident Organist at the Hanover Theatre and Performing Arts Center (please see accompanying photo) in Worcester, MA. It is here that his dream to regularly play a magnificent Wurlitzer organ was finally realized. The large, four manual, thirty six rank instrument is situated in the fully restored theatre, which also happens to be an acoustically perfect environment for the organ. Jon continues enjoying his retirement by focusing his musical energies in his new position, playing both pre-show music, noontime “mini-concerts,” and also occasional performances at other local venues, including public facilities and in private residences in the New England region.

Doors open at 1:30pm - General seating tickets are available at the door prior to the program….Please bring cash!

Refreshments will be available during intermission and free tours of the pipe organ chambers will be held following the program.

The Empire State Theatre & Musical Instrument Museum is located in the Harriet May Mills Art & Home Center on the New York State Fairgrounds. It was established in 1966 as a Nonprofit and Educational Organization, Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The Wurlitzer organ was built in 1925 for the former RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Syracuse where it was used principally for silent film accompaniment and musical interludes. It was saved and reinstalled permanently in the Empire Theatre at the State Fairgrounds as the centerpiece of the theatre and musical instrument museum.

More information about the museum is available at https://www.facebook.com/SyracuseWurlitzer.