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James Wallace: 2023 Retiree

James Wallace: 2023 Retiree
By Jackie Waters 
Photo by Adam Richins
Ten years ago, Director of Music James Wallace arrived at St. Mark’s from the Putney School in Vermont. “I loved the country but missed life closer to an urban area,” he says. “St. Mark’s offered both.” The fantastic music facilities were also “a big draw” for James, who has shared his talent with the St. Mark’s community—and the greater Southborough community, as well.

James brought “incredible devotion and passion” to his work and to the students, says colleague Rev. Katie Solter. “He goes above and beyond in all things.”

Never was that dedication more evident than when James “chased down an organ during COVID, envisioned and produced the Chapel backdrop for the PFAC, and managed to keep the choir singing and the hymns coming, even when we were on Zoom,” echoes Rev. Barbara Talcott, adding that while James had many responsibilities as director of music, he never gave short shrift to the Chapel experience.

Throughout his decade at St. Mark’s, James led the Chapel music program; directed the orchestra and choir; nurtured and supported the a cappella groups; taught Music Studio and Advanced Music Theory; supervised the private lesson program; planned music festivals, including the Wick Festival and the Cutler Jazz Festival; and served on the house duty team in Thieriot North. He also took a turn as Arts Department head and was the School organist (and organ clinician). In addition, James organized the Southborough Sounds concert series for the wider community; led the church choir at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in town; and brought St. Markers on engaging global choir trips to Canada, Cuba, Ireland, and Barbados.

The biggest highlight for James during his tenure at St. Mark’s was the Sesquicentennial Lessons and Carols service, when the entire School traveled to Trinity Church in Copley Square, and filled it with families and alumni. The performance that evening in 2015 was one for the history books!

James says he will miss “the joy of making music with the choir and orchestra, my colleagues and friends, and of course, the students.” To be sure, countless St. Markers have benefited from his encouragement, including recent Juilliard graduate Jason Hwang ’18, who credits James with recognizing his gift. “Mr. Wallace was one of the absolute best supporters I could ask for during my St. Mark’s years,” says Jason. As Barbara recognizes, “He knows not just music; he knows kids.”

For his “tireless support of the arts in the lives of countless young people,” James was recently honored with the Community Arts Service Award from Symphony Pro Musica—a well-deserved recognition of his commitment to inspiring student musicians and nurturing their talent.

Even though James is retiring from teaching, he will continue to lead musicians as the director of music at the Episcopal Pro-Cathedral of St. Peter in Salisbury, Md. He also plans to play the carillon at Salisbury University, carve out time for traveling and gardening, and enjoy walks with Sir Walter, his beloved cavalier King Charles spaniel.

“St. Mark’s is a community of smart, caring people who hold each other to high standards while caring about the wellbeing of each individual person,” says James. It is clear that the School community thinks highly of him, as well.

“James has been a real partner, every minute, in my chaplaincy,” says Barbara. “I could not have asked for better.” Adds Katie, “We are forever grateful for his talents, faith, good humor, stellar work ethic, creativity, and devotion to bringing music to St. Mark’s School and the greater Southborough community.”