A tribute to Chris Pedersen Jr

Volume 124, No. 3March, 2024

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Christian George Pedersen Jr., 86, of Fords, New Jersey, who died on December 21, 2023.

Chris enjoyed an extremely varied career. He played for operas, ballets, symphony orchestras and concert bands, including the Goldman Band,  New Jersey Symphony,  American Ballet Theater,  Bolshoi Ballet,  Stuttgart Ballet,  New Jersey Opera, New Jersey Ballet,  Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and Greenwich Symphony. He also played in show bands, world music ensembles, stage bands, and jazz and Dixieland groups.

He was born on June 15, 1937, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey to the late Christian G. S. Pedersen and Alice (n. Lease) Pedersen. After two years, he moved to Fords, New Jersey, where he resided for the past 83 years. He enjoyed a happy childhood, riding horses and playing outside with his sister, many cousins, and neighborhood friends.

Chris’s first love was music, and music became his way of life. He began playing clarinet at the age of five, and he had his first paying job when he was 13. Chris worked hard, and mastered the clarinet, saxophones, flute and piccolo.

Chris earned a Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music and became a New Jersey certified music teacher. He taught at Cedarcroft Middle School in South Plainfield, John Adams Middle School in Edison, and JP Stevens High School in Edison. At each of these schools, he formed lifelong friendships and mentorships with those he taught.

Chris was a strong union man. He served as an officer of AFM Local 373 (now combined into Local 16-248) and was a member of Local 802 since 1961.

For over 25 years, Chris played for many famous acts at the PNC Bank Arts Center, and he was both a regular and a sub for numerous Broadway shows. He performed at many well-known venues, including Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Carnegie Recital Hall, the Hubbard Auditorium at the Manhattan School of Music, the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Chris also played and toured with the Band of America, and studied under Joe Allard and Harold Bennett.

But most of all, he loved his band. Chris was the conductor and musical director of the Garden State Symphonic Band for 60 years, and he worked tirelessly to keep live music available free to the public. He collaborated with the band’s nonprofit fundraising organization called Concerts by the Bay, which allowed him to pay professional union musicians to provide concert music on Sundays each summer at Bayview Park in Perth Amboy for six decades.

Chris was a lifelong regular churchgoer and a former member of the men’s group at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church of Edison until it closed its doors. He then became a parishioner at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and even as it became difficult to attend live service, Chris still got dressed up weekly to view the service from home.

Besides his passion for music and his devotion as a Christian, Chris’s Danish heritage was a large and important part of his life. He was a member of Thor Lodge #46 of the Danish Brotherhood, and DANE (Danish Archive North East) in Edison. Chris preserved and performed Danish music, and he enjoyed honoring Danish culture with his family through holiday traditions, authentic food, and song.

Chris’s first love was music, but his biggest and most important love was his treasured wife, Jacquelyn. Originally, becoming a teacher was not a goal for young Chris Pedersen, but once they started a family, Chris cheerfully taught until his retirement, always continuing with his musician jobs at night or on weekends. Chris never missed holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries at home. He wrote the sweetest and funniest gift tags, and he had the most “distinctive” (i.e. messy) present wrapping. By their children, “Mom and Dad” have always been seen as one unified couple, who took their kids apple picking, sleigh riding, ice skating, camping, kayaking, and hiking.  They have always supported their children through anything that life has thrown their way.

Chris was larger than life. He had so many lifelong friends that it’s difficult to keep track. He always had the time to talk to an old friend or make a new one. He had numerous former students whose gifts and tributes have been pouring in over the years. He was a steady, calming presence, who could discuss anything, including politics and religion, without ever losing temper or patience. He was in every way the head of his family, a beacon of light and hope. He was the chief advice-giver and storyteller. Chris loved parties, delicious food of all kinds, and imported beer. He was social, funny, sincere, intelligent, and kind. He was the most loving and dedicated husband, the best father, and an involved and very proud grandfather.

Chris is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Jacquelyn (n. Schultz) Pedersen of Fords; his three children: Robin Pedersen, and her husband Charlie Sharman, of Cream Ridge, NJ; Christian Pedersen III, and his wife, Renee, of Monroe Township, NJ; Lori Pedersen, of Fords; his sister, Carol Pedersen, and his niece, Cindy Stopen of Milford, NJ; his six grandchildren: Rebecca, David, Jesse, Karlee, and husband Mark, Cody, Maggie, and two great grandchildren, Adida & Malcolm.

Private cremation was entrusted to Flynn and Son Funeral Home in Fords, New Jersey.

Almost 200 family and friends attended a celebration of Chris’ life on Jan. 6, 2024 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Edison.

To honor Chris’ life, the family suggests donations to Concerts By the Bay. Donate online at or mail to: Concerts by the Bay, Inc., Attn. Lisa Nanton, Treasurer, 32 Gordon St., Perth Amboy, NJ  08861.

Obituary adapted from , written by Lori Pedersen with edits from Jacquelyn Pedersen.