For the first time, an orchestra director will lead the Virginia Band and Orchestra Director’s Association (VBODA), and it is our very own CHS orchestra teacher, Ms. Laura Mulligan Thomas! This will be the third time a female has been elected president of the VBODA, an organization of high school, middle school, and elementary school band and orchestra directors within the Commonwealth of Virginia, whose mission is to help promote opportunities of music education to K-12 students.
The primary arbiter for various band and orchestra events throughout the state, the VBODA organizes many competitions and provides outstanding individual student musicians opportunities to work with renowned conductors around the United States.
Mulligan Thomas has served as the director of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra for three decades. She came to CHS after graduating with honors from James Madison University in 1982 and began immediately to develop and nourish the orchestra program of eight students she inherited. Today an award-winning group of 110, 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 have followed in Ms. Thomas’s footsteps and pursued careers in music education. The CHSO consistently earns superior ratings and top honors at district, national, and international music festivals.
Honored as Charlottesville’s Woman of the Year in 1999 by the Virginia Women’s Forum, Mulligan Thomas was also named one of the Charlottesville Top 25 Citizens by C-ville. Numerous additional awards 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. She studied orchestra conducting with Thomas Wilkins, Carl Roskott, and Ray Fowler, and earned her master’s degree from Shenandoah Conservatory in 1996. In 2002, Shenandoah University honored her with its first graduate Alumna of Excellence Award.
Mulligan Thomas spent her early years in Alexandria, Virginia, where she studied piano with National Symphony pianist Marion Herrett and learned cello in the Alexandria City Schools string program. She has guest-conducted dozens of youth orchestras throughout Virginia, and serves as secretary 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, Mulligan Thomas plays piano and cello with several Charlottesville chamber ensembles, and whenever possible performs with her three siblings as the Mulligan String Quartet.