Laura Mulligan Thomas, photo courtesy of chsorchestra.org
Charlottesville City Schools Press Release
Laura Mulligan Thomas, director of Charlottesville High School’s acclaimed orchestra, has received the 2013 James Madison University Outstanding Music Educator Alumni Award. During her 32 years at CHS, Thomas and her orchestra have been highly decorated; most recently, she and the school’s string ensemble performed at Charlottesville’s first TEDx event. The orchestra will present its winter concert Wednesday night (12/4) at 7:30pm at the Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center; the performance is free and open to the public.
Dr. Gary Ritcher, coordinator of music education at JMU, wrote to announce the award, commending Thomas’ “record of accomplishment in and service to music education” and celebrating her “as one of our most outstanding graduates.”
Thomas has served as the director of the CHS orchestra for more than three decades, arriving at CHS after graduating with honors from JMU in 1982. There were 8 members of her first orchestra, which has grown into an award-winning group of 145. A number of CHSO graduates are professional musicians who perform with orchestras and pop, rock, and country artists in the U.S. and Europe; still other alumni are music educators.
Honored as Charlottesville’s Woman of the Year in 1999 by the Virginia Women’s Forum, Ms. Thomas was also named one of the Charlottesville top 25 Citizens by C-Ville Weekly. Numerous additional accolades for her work with young musicians include Charlottesville’s Distinguished Teacher Award, the Golden Apple award, the Piedmont Council of the Arts Award, and Outstanding Educator in Central Virginia awarded by Phi Delta Kappa. In 1996, Thomas earned her master’s degree from Shenandoah Conservatory, which in 2002 honored her with its first graduate Alumna of Excellence Award. She has guest-conducted dozens of youth orchestras throughout Virginia, and serves on the executive board of the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association. She is the chair of the Fine Arts department at Charlottesville High School, and for three years directed the University of Richmond Orchestra. An active performer, Thomas plays piano and cello with several Charlottesville chamber ensembles, and whenever possible performs with her three siblings as the Mulligan String Quartet.
The CHS orchestra has developed an international reputation of performing at the highest level, receiving top prizes and superior ratings at competitions around the globe. Most recently, the orchestra received two gold medals and “Best Overall Orchestra” at a 2013 competition in New York City. The group has received media attention from The New York Times, Southern Living, and National Public Radio, among others.
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