James H. Laster

Also credited as James Laster, Jim Laster

James Laster, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 19, 1934, is Professor Emeritus at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University.  He holds degrees in music history as well as biology from Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee; the M.A. in musicology, and the Ph.D. in church music from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee; a Masters of Science in Library Science (music emphasis) from Catholic University in Washington, DC, and a certificate in organ from the Mozarteum Summer Academy, Salzburg, Austria.

He has held teaching positions at George Peabody College; Grove City College in Pennsylvania; the Community School of Tehran, Iran; the Beirut College for Women, Beirut, Lebanon; and was a member of the faculty of Shenandoah Conservatory for 27 years. He has served as guest conductor and choral clinician and judge for workshops and regional festivals. He has served as a choral judge for the Six Flags Choral Festivals, for National Heritage Tours, and for Gateway Festivals. In 1997, he was the guest conductor of an International Choral Festival held in San Jose, Costa Rica.

At Shenandoah, he taught a variety of classes: choral conducting, choral arranging, choral repertoire, as well as courses in church music, and music theory. He directed various ensembles: Cantus Singers (women’s ensemble), Madrigal Singers, Shenandoah Singers (a 22-voice show choir). Just prior to retirement, he served as a Reference Librarian in the Alson Smith, Jr. Library.

Laster has been active in theatre both on and off the stage, having been the musical director for fifty-two of Shenandoah’s musical theatre productions, including: Gypsy, Hello Dolly, A Little Night Music, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, Grease, Man of La Mancha, and State Fair. These conducting experiences led to his book, So You’re the New Musical Director, published by Scarecrow Press.

He has appeared on stage in several Shenandoah’s school productions including Tenderloin and Into the Woods; with Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, he has been seen in My Fair Lady, King and I, 1776, Brigadoon, and Curtains, to mention a few. He has worked at Studio Theatre, Washington, DC; The Old Creamery Theatre, Amana, Iowa; the Bay Theatre, Annapolis, Maryland, and the Wayside Theatre, Middleton, Virginia. Favorite roles include Scrooge (A Christmas Carol); Weller (Gin Game); Morrie (Tuesdays with Morrie), and Wargrave (Ten Little Indians). He has worked as an extra in films (Syriana), in student projects at Temple University, and commercials.

As a church musician, he has served as organist/choirmaster at various churches: St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Nashville; St. John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, Pennsylvania; the Community Church, Tehran, Iran; the English speaking church, Beirut, Lebanon. From 1973 to 1999, he was Organist/Choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church, Upperville, Virginia.  For each of these congregations, he composed many choral and instrumental works for use in the liturgy, some of which are published by Augsburg-Fortress, Concordia, Mark Foster, Boosey & Hawkes, Hinshaw, and Treble Clef Press.

Dr. Laster is a past member of Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and American Choral Directors Association. He is the compiler of several music catalogs, all published by Scarecrow Press. An ongoing interest is the role of the women’s chorus in collegiate choral music since 1880, and he is currently engaged in writing a history of Wayside Theatre that closed in 2013.


Associated Productions
1776 (2003)
Anything Goes (1991)
Brigadoon (1989)
Brigadoon (2003)
Camelot (1995)
Carousel (1990)
City of Angels (1993)
Crazy For You (2013)
Crazy for You (1996)
Curtains (2011)
Gypsy (1991)
Kismet (1991)
My Fair Lady (1985)
My Fair Lady (2002)
My Fair Lady (1994)
Oliver! (1986)
Oliver! (1997)
Singin’ in the Rain (1995)
The King and I (2014)
The King and I (1987)
The King and I (2000)
The Music Man (1987)
The Sound of Music (1986)
The Wizard of Oz (2006)
White Christmas (2010)

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