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Kosnik Shows Students What Musical Career Looks Like

By Phil Walzer

The thunderous sound of organ music rose from Jim Kosnik's office in the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts on a recent morning. The music professor was playing the German composer Georg Bohm's "All Is Passing, All Is Fleeting."

But some things aren't fleeting. Like Kosnik's devotion to music and his passion for teaching and performing.

He's been a faculty member at Old Dominion for 36 years. He served as chairman of the music department from 1986 to 1992 and was designated a University Professor in 2009.

In 1998, Kosnik received the Most Inspiring Faculty Award from ODU's College of Arts & Letters.

He also maintains a busy performing schedule, which has included appearances at the Vatican and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

"My goal has always been to show my students, through example, what a career as a musician looks like," he said.

"Jim Kosnik has been my colleague for 32 years," said Nancy Klein, a professor of choral music and chair of the music department. "He is one of the most talented organists on the East Coast and is a brilliant music history professor. His in-depth knowledge of every historical era, down to every detail, is remarkable. The students look forward to a Dr. Kosnik lecture, and he is consistent in his presentation, year after year."

Kosnik's office provides a window to his musical passions and his lives both at Old Dominion and his native Buffalo, N.Y.

The organ Kosnik was playing is at least 60 years old. It was used by Old Dominion's first music chairman, Charles Vogan. On the other side of the room sits the piano that Kosnik's parents bought for him after his insistent pleading when he was 7.

He got his first paid musical job at the age of 13, when his church hired him to play the organ. He played seven days a week, including at three early Masses each weekday morning before going to school.

Kosnik had "the biggest crowd of my life" in 2005, when he played at St. Patrick's Cathedral, introducing a work by Old Dominion composer Adolphus Hailstork. The turnout, Kosnik acknowledged, was probably not due to his musical virtuosity.

It was the weekend after Pope John Paul II's death, and Masses were being said for the pope regularly. "Two thousand people were in the audience for the concert," Kosnik said, "but they weren't there to hear me play."

Last year, he reveled in what he called a "nostalgia trip par excellence," playing organ in the Distinguished Alumnus Concert Series at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees. In the audience was his 90-year-old music history professor.

Kosnik will return to Buffalo next month to be inducted in the Signum Fidei Society of the Alumni Association of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, where he attended hjgh school. He has endowed a scholarship, named after his parents, at the school for a student who excels in theater, visual arts or music.

Locally, Kosnik is a member of the boards of the Norfolk Chamber Consort and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads. He also sits on the board of the American Guild of Organists.

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