In 1973, Lynn and Rich Moschel moved from Cincinnati to Western New York. Rich worked for an institutional textile manufacturer and was assigned to cover the territory from Western New York to Southern Ontario for his firm. Lynn, trained as a librarian, worked for the Amherst Public Libraries in Amherst, New York, and was responsible for children's programming, a position she held for 20 years. "That was when we first heard about Chautauqua Institution," Rich explained, "but the place was in a pretty run-down state. Lynn and I said to each other that we didn't know why anyone would want to vacation there."
Fast forward to 1984. Rich was training to run the Buffalo Marathon and got acquainted with a runner from Cleveland at a spaghetti dinner the night before the race. At the starting line the next day, the two men found themselves side by side. At the end of the day, Rich's new friend said, "Why don't you and Lynn come to Chautauqua over Christmas?" The Moschels decided to give it a try. By that time, Chautauqua was experiencing a resurgence and the Moschels were so taken with the place that they bought a condo under construction. "We'd never spent a night on the grounds in the regular season," Rich said, "but that's how impressed we were with the place."
The Moschels initially used the condo as an investment and rented it out for most weeks of the season. "Ours was the usual story," Lynn added, "we'd stay for a weekend... then it became a week, then two weeks and so on." By 1997, the Moschels had bought and completely renovated a house on Miller Avenue, and in 2002 they moved to the grounds year round. Rich joined the Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department and later became treasurer of the Chautauqua Utility District. Lynn served on the board of the Opera Guild. She also accepted an invitation from Kit Trapasso, director of the Children's School, to become the school's librarian and volunteered in a second-grade classroom at Chautauqua Lake Central School during the rest of the year. Rich was one of the founders of the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua and served as president of the Hebrew Congregation.
The couple has continued to contribute to the Institution in many ways over the years. Yet, their most rewarding experience every year, the Moschels said, is "adopting" an opera student for the season. "We get more out of it than we give and enjoy befriending wonderful young artists pursuing their dream," Lynn said.
Having been introduced to opera as a child by her mother, Lynn rebelled for a time against the art form, but the Chautauqua Opera Company and the Young Artist Program soon won her over. "For both of us, it's the people who make the music. They are so devoted to their craft. They work so hard and stay so busy every summer," Lynn said.
When Lynn's mother, Miriam Goodman, who was also a devoted Chautauquan, turned 100 in 2011, former artistic director Jay Lesenger and members of the opera company surprised Miriam with a cake and sang happy birthday to her. "You should have heard that!" Lynn said. "My mother was blown away."
In 2013, Lynn suffered a devastating accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. After the accident, Chautauqua only became more important to the Moschels. In the face of what has become years of challenging physical therapy and treatments for Lynn, the Moschels have even more fully experienced what they call the true spirit of Chautauqua — a community that cares for its members. Though they had to give up their year-round status as Chautauquans, Rich and Lynn now manage to come for 10 weeks in the summer between her ongoing rehabilitation with trainers back in Cincinnati and Atlanta, Georgia. "Being at Chautauqua is a major part of my recovery," Lynn said. "People are so helpful and encouraging."
Choking back emotion, Rich told how his friends in the fire department immediately built a ramp for Lynn's wheelchair, sailing through approval with the Architectural Review Board, and had it ready when they first arrived back on the grounds after the accident. Though the couple was able to stay only for a week during the year after Lynn's injury, she is much improved now. Lynn walks short distances with crutches and is able to navigate the grounds on her scooter. Each year, friends and fellow Chautauquans are always there to lend a helping hand, whether it be planting flowers in the Moschels' yard, helping unpack when they arrive, sharing a meal together or just sitting on their porch enjoying each other's company.
Eager to enjoy performances each summer, the Moschels have become enamored of the contemporary operas produced under the leadership of General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood. Lynn says that Hydrogen Jukebox was so intriguing to them that they bought tickets to the second performance after seeing the first. "The opera As One was also moving to us, and we learned so much about the transgender experience," Lynn said.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of Chautauqua Opera in 2019, the couple made a legacy gift to support the company by establishing the Rich and Lynn Moschel Opera Endowment. The Moschels' planned gift, funded through an IRA, will support opera in perpetuity. "It is so important to preserve the art form, especially at Chautauqua," Lynn said. "Opera is music, voices, costumes, the sets — it is the complete art form that reflects all of the performing arts at the Institution. We want to see opera continue here long after we're gone."