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Jonathan Biggers, associate professor of music and holder of the Edwin Link Endowed Professorship in Organ and Harpsichord at Binghamton University, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Vestal on Tuesday, Sept. 27. He was 56 years old.

Biggers’ career as an internationally acclaimed organist spanned several decades. In 1985, he was unanimously awarded first prize at the Geneva International Musical Competition, one of the most prestigious organ competitions in the world. He has appeared as a featured soloist in many renowned performance groups, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and has been played frequently on NPR’s “Pipedreams” program.

Marnie Wrighter, the concert manager at Binghamton University, said the loss was a personal one for the whole music department.

“We were his family,” she said. “He didn’t have anyone else up here really.”

Next year would have been Biggers’ 25th year as a professor at BU. His colleagues knew him for his generosity and his dedication to the University.

“He really cared about us — he would be on the schedule for two concerts every year at the school because he knew all the revenue would go straight to the [music] department, even though he wouldn’t make any money,” Wrighter said.

An entertainer at heart, Biggers would host a welcome-back party in his own home at the beginning of each academic year for his friends in the department.

“He was at his happiest when he could entertain and be entertained by his friends,” said René Neville, assistant to the chair of the music department.

His acerbic exterior could sometimes mask his sense of humor, according to his colleagues.

“One time, he was playing a show at the church and was in there practicing and warming up by himself,” Neville said. “There was an elderly handicapped woman who came to the show early and I opened the door for her to seat her beforehand. He looked up and absolutely looked shocked when he heard that door, yelling, ‘This is a closed rehearsal; no one is allowed in!’”

While his reputation as a “character of the organ world” would often precede him, those who knew him well knew him as a generous and passionate man.

“He really had a huge heart,” Wrighter said. “I would tell him, ‘I know you have a big heart, whether you want other people to know it or not, I know.’”

At the time of his death, Biggers was in the middle of a three-year series of performances of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He was planning to release a CD version of the complete works of Bach in the future.

He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Fred and Caroline Biggers, who live in Virginia with their children, Claire and Sam.

A memorial service will be held on Monday, Oct. 10 at the United Presbyterian Church in the city of Binghamton, where Biggers played many concerts during his life. A special musical performance will start at 12:15 p.m., followed by the memorial service at 1 p.m.