Music Director James Rensink

James Rensink is a world renowned musician whose scope and abilities make him unique. He has performed with the world’s leading organizations and artists as baritone, pianist, organist, conductor, composer and teacher. He is one of a handful of top musicians whose work has been seen at Lincoln Center as leading baritone, pianist, composer and conductor. In 2001, James received a special citation from the Congress of the United States for his outstanding musical achievements. He currently serves as Artist-in Residence at the Storm King School in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. We, at Temple Beth El, feel extremely fortunate that he is our music director and organist and has been for the past twenty years. 

James began studying piano at the age of four and continued his musical studies to obtain a Masters in Music from Northwestern University. During his teen years, James his intense study of what would be the major component of his international career – operatic singing. Having sung more than seventy leading operatic roles in twenty-five countries, he became a favorite of conductors in modern opera because of their unusual musical demands. His operatic career has taken him to each of the fifty United States and many leading cultural venues including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. His world premiere include:

The Tempest, by Lee Hoiby, Kennedy Center, Washington DC 
The Dreyfus Affair by Moshe Cotels, Brooklyn Academy, Brooklyn, NY 
Holy Blood and Crescent Moon by Stewart Copland, Cleveland Opera 
Anna Karenina by Sir Ian Hamilton, Los Angeles Opera Theater 
Taverner by Peter Maxwell Davies, Opera Company of Boston
Invisible City of Kitchz Rimksy Korsakov Opera Company of Boston
King Roger by Karol Symanowski, St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis, MO
Dream within a Dream by Russell Curries, NY Opera, New York, NY

James Rensink has appeared in several television and film productions including singing the role of the Father in WFMT’s Emmy winning production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and as pianist for the movie Success, and the documentary Laubin – Oboe Maker. Recently, he appeared as vocal soloist in the Mozart Requiem at the Pitten Festival, piano soloist in “Rhapsody in Blue” with the OCMEA Wind Ensemble, and he sang the role of Scarpia in Tosca.

James Rensink has been assistant music director to the famed Sarah Caldwell at the Opera Company of the Phillipines, the Opera Company of Israel, Opera New England and conducted at the Pitten Festival in Vienna, Austria. He has composed or arranged music for members of the NY Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Boston Pops, San Franciso Symphony and others. He has recorded with artists including Robert Sullivan, formerly Associate Principal Trumpet of the NY Philharmonic, now Principal Trumpet with Cincinnati Symphony; Peter Bond – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Nancy Allen, Principal Harp- NY Philharmonic; Danny Druckman, Associate Principal Percussion – NY Philharmonic; Michael Sachs, Principal Trumpet – Cleveland Orchestra; and Tom Smith, Trumpet – NY Philharmonic and Boston Pops.

As a pianist, he concerto performances have included:
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto   
Saint-Saens Concertos 2,3, and 4
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Rachmaninoff Concertos 2 and 3
Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Mozart – various concertos


Mr. Rensink now enjoys a busy performing career collaborating with artists including:

Barry Centanni, Principal Percussion – Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Krista Bennion Feeney, Concertmaster – Mostly Mozart, Orchestra of St. Luke’s
John Feeney, Principal Bass – Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Karl Bennion, Cello – Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Sheryl Staples, Associate Principal Concertmaster – NY Philhamronic
Michelle Kim, Assistant Concertmaster – NY Philhamronic
Robert Sullivan, Principal Trumpet – Cincinnati Symphony
Rebecca Young, Associate Principal Viola – NY Philhamronic
James Ross, Trumpet – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Kathy Fink, Flute – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Chris Hall, Principal Tuba – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Keiske Ikuma, Principal Oboe – NHK Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic
John Zirbel, Principal Horn – Montreal Symphony
Michael Sachs, Principal Trumpet – Cleveland Orchestra
Paul Pollard, Principal Bass-trombone – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

James Rensink has collaborated with many of the world’s leading artists as pianist/coach at the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes School of Music and other prominent conservatories.

In addition to his busy classical career, Mr. Rensink has appeared with many renowned artists outside of the classical world. He has performed with such notable actors as James Whitmore, Jane Powell, Colleen Dewhurst, and Patricia Neal in Drama Guild at Sea for the Cunard Cruise Line. He has also accompanied Shirley Jones, Kathryn Grayson and participated as teacher in audition workshops with actor Jonathan Harris.

James and his wife are the proud parents of triplet sons – Nate, Jake and Alex – who are musicians as well. They are the first set of triplets to win admission to the Juilliard PC program, to win invitations to New York’s All State Festival, and to attend McGill University where they studied with principals of the Montreal Symphony. James has joined with his sons appearing with members of the NY Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. Perhaps a highlight was appearing as accompanist with each of the boys in their solo recital debuts at Lincoln Centers Paul Hall when they were 16.