It’s a life full of music for La Jolla church organist Steven Townsend

Steven Townsend, a native of Southern California, started his professional career at age 13 as organist for the First Christian Church in Fullerton, Calif. Since August 1992, he has been Pastor for Music Ministries at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and organist of The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

Townsend is the artistic director for The St. James Music Series that brings world-class artists to perform in La Jolla at St. James by-the-Sea.

After graduating with academic distinction from the Eastman School of Music, he earned Master’s degrees in Sacred Music and Organ Performance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Before moving to La Jolla, Townsend was director of music at the First Congregational Church in Santa Barbara and music director of the 100-voice Santa Barbara Choral Society

Townsend is a member of the American Guild of Organists and the Association of Anglican Musicians.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I came to La Jolla in August of 1992 to become the Director of Music at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and the Organist for The Bishop’s School.

What makes this area special to you?

I’m a second-generation native Southern Californian so I have always loved being close to the ocean and I am especially grateful that my family lives close by in Southern California.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

No stingrays would be allowed at the beach. I was stung when I first moved to La Jolla!

What inspires you?

In nature, I am inspired by the beauty of the ocean and the sunsets I see from my office window. In architecture, I am inspired by the extraordinary beauty of St. Mary’s Chapel at The Bishop’s School. In my work I am inspired by the amazing choristers I have the opportunity to work with week after week.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite seven singers, all who I have had the opportunity to hear on stage and who have inspired me over the years, and I’d save one spot for an accompanist in hopes that the singers might each sing a song before dinner! Singers: Leontyne Price, Jesse Norman, Janet Baker, Dawn Upshaw, Frederica von Stade, Kathleen Battle, and Montserrat Caballe.

Tell us about what you are reading.

I just finished “War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo. Although it is written for children and young adults, it is a very moving story that has been transformed into one of the most astounding theater pieces I have ever seen in London’s West End.

What is your most-prized possession?

I suppose it would be a gift given to us many years ago — a beautiful 1926 Steinway ebony grand piano.

What do you do for fun?

I swim nearly every day, garden at home on my days off, and travel most any chance I get!

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

I am grateful to have had a fulfilling career spanning over 30 years in two incredibly beautiful California cities — Santa Barbara and La Jolla.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Live well, laugh often, love much!