Ben Hutto, a Charleston native and respected church organist, died on Tuesday. He was 67.
Most recently, Hutto served as director of music at St. John’s Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., and director of performing arts at the St. Albans School for Boys and the National Cathedral School for Girls.
He was diagnosed in December with a rare form of cancer of the gallbladder, according to the Association of Anglican Musicians, which announced his death. Hutto is survived by many relatives living in the Charleston area.
As a teenager, Hutto studied piano and organ and began playing in local churches. A social progressive, he worked to integrate the choir of his home church, Bethel United Methodist, and participated in a civil rights sit-in, according to a statement by Jim Garvey, president of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
He attended the Gaud School for Boys in Charleston and Emory University then studied journalism at the University of Missouri before returning to Charleston to teach English at Porter-Gaud School, where he developed a choral program.
He soon became organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, and helped found Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s organ series.
In the mid-1980s, Hutto moved to Charlotte where he was organist and choirmaster of Christ Episcopal Church. In 1999, he relocated to Washington, D.C.
“He was a naturally talented, if mostly self-trained, choral and church musician,” said William Gudger, a local organist and professor emeritus of music history at the College of Charleston. “He knew how to put together the music, whether for his choral program at Porter-Gaud or services at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul. He went on to further triumphs in Charlotte and then Washington, where Presidents Bush and Obama sang to Ben’s accompaniment.”
Funeral arrangements are still pending.