John Sutko, director emeritus of St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church, Burr Ridge, IL, fell asleep in the Lord on Tuesday, June 09, 2020 after battling various health complications.
Born on March 28, 1935, he grew up on the South Side of Chicago, IL. John began singing in the St. Peter and St. Paul Choir at the age of 14 and at the age of 17 began to study music at Wilson Junior College. In 1953, at the age of 18, Archpriest Nicholas Semkoff asked him to direct the second Liturgy on Sundays, which was in Church Slavonic. He also encouraged John to concentrate on church music in addition to his other studies at the college.
While directing the choir at St. Peter and St. Paul, John began his studies in music at the Chicago Conservatory of Music as well as courses in education at Chicago Teacher College. In addition to traditional music courses, John was involved in oratorio, opera workshop, voice recitals, and solo work at various churches and other occasions in the Chicago area.
At the age of 20, John took over the directing of both liturgies at St. Peter and St. Paul.
In 1957, John received his Bachelor’s in Music Education and on August 11, he married Alice Theresa Gabrysiak. During the same year, in addition to his position at St. Peter and St. Paul, John began his teaching career in music at McClure Junior High School in Western Springs, IL. He held that position for 35 years. In 1961 John received his master’s degree in Music Education. In 1968 John became assistant principal at the junior high school and began work on his second master’s degree in school administration. During his tenure in teaching, he was twice nominated for the Golden Apple Award in teaching in the state of Illinois.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the official English texts for all the feast day vespers and liturgies were being prepared by the Liturgical Commission of the Orthodox Church in America. John began to adapt all the vespers verses (stikhera, litiya, apostika) for the feast days of the Church in four parts and in their proper tones. This project took over ten years to complete.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, John continued to present the music of the Faith to other groups, churches, and organizations. He was the director for the consecration of Bishop Boris, the 1988 services commemoration the Millennium of Orthodoxy in Russia, the installation of Bishop Job, three patriarchal visits in the 1990’s including Patriarch Aleksy II, Patriarch Pavle, and Patriarch Dimitrios, a benefit concert for Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, the wedding of Prince Arnold and Princess Renate of Windisch-Graetz, Germany, and others.
In 1999, John began converting handwritten scores into computer formatting. The fruits of his labors produced a Panikhida service book, a book of Christmas carols of Eastern Europe, a children’s choir book, and a Prostopinije of the Carpatho-Russian people.
John has also accepted invitations to participate in various professional choirs as the lead soloist, chanter, and oktavist. This includes the Bach Society of St. Louis, Missouri in their presentation of Rachmaninov’s Divine Liturgy, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago choirs during their presentations of Rachmaninov, Gretchaninov, and Kalinnikov vigils.
In 2013, a banquet was held in honor of John’s 60 anniversary as choir director at St. Peter and St. Paul. This momentous event was recognized by the Synod of the Orthodox Church in America with a Synodal Gromata.
In February of 2016, John directed his last Divine Liturgy as the Choir Director of St. Peter and St. Paul Church. On May 6, 2017, the Order of St. Romanos was bestowed on him by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America.
John is survived by his wife Alice of 63 years, he is the loving father to David (Michele) Sutko and Cynthia (Gregory) Koranda; and grandfather of Priest Alexander (Carly) Koranda, Marissa (Ethan) Rucker, Aaron Koranda and Michael Sutko. He is the loving great-grandfather of Magdalena and Anna Koranda. He was the dear brother of Michael Sutko and MaryJane Rozdilsky.
May John’s memory be eternal!