Laura Mulligan Thomas has served as the director
of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra for
more than three decades. Ms. Thomas 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
150, 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.
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. 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. Ms. Thomas studied orchestral
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.
Ms. 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 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, Ms. Thomas plays
piano and cello with several Charlottesville chamber
ensembles, and whenever possible performs with
her three siblings as the Mulligan String Quartet.