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John Harvard's Journal

Josh Kantor

September-October 2010

Josh Kantor

In 2003, while auditioning to become the Boston Red Sox organist, Josh Kantor was asked to play Motown, disco, Sinatra, the Beatles, and “as many different things as you can think of that are 10 seconds or less that might energize a crowd”—all by ear. A savvy musician who plays seven instruments, including harmonica, upright bass, and guitar (he accompanied improv comedy groups at Brandeis, where he earned his B.A. in 1994), Kantor got the gig. But he kept his day job at the Harvard Law Library, where he’s now a reference and interlibrary loan assistant. The son of two teachers, Kantor has long considered libraries “a real sanctuary.” His first post-college job was as a librarian at Boston University; he came to Harvard in 1999. “Music, libraries, and baseball: those are three things I’ve loved since I was very young,” he says. Thus his Clark Kent/Superman existence—law librarian by day, organist for the Fenway Faithful by night—has deep roots. Supportive library colleagues cover his shifts during the occasional midweek day game. At Fenway, Kantor plays a 40-minute pregame set of musical comfort food, ranging from The Doors to Madonna; follows the pregame ceremony script (“Organ plays after every Red Sox name”); then, headphones on, awaits cues from his producer. When, say, a catcher and pitcher confer, he might render a bit of the Supremes’ “Come See About Me.” Recently, when Red Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice was honored at the park, Kantor accompanied Rice’s Jumbotron image with Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.” “I get a lot more nervous speaking in front of 10 people at the library,” Kantor says, “than playing in front of 30,000.”