Immersed in music culture
Roland Chesley was born in Rochester, N.H., on July 24, 1881. He came to Utica in 1931, transferred here from Albany as an agent for a school book publisher, Ginn & Co. He retired from that position in 1949 after 40 years of service. But even when he was so employed, he immersed himself in the city’s classical music culture, a tenor singing occasionally in B Sharp Musical Club programs and associating himself with Gertrude Curran’s inspiration to bring the best of classical music to the city.
After he retired from Ginn & Co., he was able to devote full attention to the artists’ series and to the many organizations in which he volunteered, most notably, the Utica Boys Club.
During Chesley’s long tenure with the Great Artists Series, he brought hundreds of distinguished national and international performers to the city. These include names such as Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, Sergei Rachmaninov (sometimes Racmaninoff), Lily Ponds, Isaac Stern, Nelson Eddy, Van Cliburn, Mario Lanza and countless symphony orchestras from all parts of the world.
All of them performed at Utica’s illustrious Stanley Theater, which opened in September 1928.