Jesse Lee Church hires Sarah Fox as new choir director

Leading the powerful choir at Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church is a new challenge for Sarah Fox, but she’s already digging in.

This winter, Fox received a job offer at Jesse Lee in Ridgefield. At the time, she was a recent graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she studied music and religion.

But she wanted to do more. Fox heard that Henric Idestrom, former director of the adult choir, was leaving. She decided to audition for the lead position, and she ended up being offered Idestrom’s place in the adult choir.

Music is nothing new for Fox.

She has been singing and playing music her whole life. She was born in Kentucky and has

traveled to England to both study and work. She graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2016, where she studied music, in particular choral conducting. She was also the master conductor at St. Augustine’s Church in Edgbaston.

“I remember growing up with my mother on the organ bench and singing too,” said Fox. “I didn’t want my mother kicked off the bench, so it was time to find my own church,” she said.

It seems that music is a very big part of her family, as her brother is a composer.

Singing is also a big part of her life. In addition, she plays the flute, piano, and many other different types of instruments.

“I am a musician and a scholar of sorts,” said Fox.

When first coming to Jesse Lee, it was an adjustment for Fox as she not only had to learn all the music, but she had to get to know the people as well. Her first day, on Jan. 5, was the day she just jumped into things. “That is the only way that you can do it,” said Fox.

The first service on Sundays at 9 a.m. is a traditional service held in the sanctuary, that is complete with the sermon and a choir leading the congregation in singing familiar hymns.

The second service, which is a contemporary service at 10:30, is in the recently renovated Carriage House. Contemporary music is led by the worship teams and a media enhanced message. The music offers a wide range of percussion.

“There are so many different talents of people and it’s great to see them come together,” said the Rev. William Pfohl, who is the senior pastor of Jesse Lee.

With the transition as the new choir director, it comes as no surprise that Fox is being guided by the correct people.

“Henric has been a great mentor to me and helps me through the music,” she said.

Idestrom has been a big part of Jesse Lee, and is also involved with the SymphoNYChorus. As the founder, conductor, and artistic director, the position comes with a lot of responsibility, which required him to be traveling quite extensively.

When the opportunity came about, it wasn’t difficult to find his replacement as Fox seemed to be the perfect fit.

“I believe that the way music is sung, affects the way people worship,” said Fox.

Fox describes Jesse Lee as being quite the unique church. There are the two buildings that the services take place in — the sanctuary and Carriage House. Both of them have a unique architecture setup, which can make a difference with the sounds of music.

“You have to get used to the way the music sounds in each of the rooms, because they differ very much from one another,” said Fox.