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Artistic Directors


Michele Fowlin

Michele Fowlin (Artistic Director, Children of the Gospel Choir) has cultivated her love and passion for music from a young age. At the age of nine, Ms. Fowlin was accepted into the Juilliard School’s pre-college program for aspiring young musicians, as a piano student. She won a variety of piano competitions and awards and participated in many festivals both nationally and internationally. Her musical pursuits eventually led her to focusing on the voice and conducting.

She attended Howard University and earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Vocal Performance/Pedagogy with a piano minor. While at Howard, she studied with renowned opera singers Regina McConnell, Carmen Balthrop, and Charlotte Holloman. Under the tutelage of Dr. James Weldon Norris, she was introduced to conducting. Ms. Fowlin eventually became the Assistant to the Conductor for the University Choirs. Upon traveling with the choir nationally and internationally, Ms. Fowlin conducted many concerts and eventually became one of the lead soloists. These opportunities led her to performances in Russia, England, Spain, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She has performed for dignitaries including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, former President Obama, former Vice Presidents Biden and Gore, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Ambassador Sasae of Japan, and numerous others, and as part of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” Campaign.

After Howard, Ms. Fowlin continued her vocal career while expanding her skills as a music teacher in the public school system. Her desire to motivate students musically has extended from the classroom into the community. Ms. Fowlin has worked with Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir as a music director, vocal coach and is the director of choral programs at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (MD), and has conducted various church choirs in the area. She continues to hold clinics for vocal health and wellness, voice and piano master classes and guest directorships for gospel music workshops. Ms. Fowlin has been recognized with various awards including the Mayor’s Arts Award, a Certificate of Recognition from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Who’s Who Among American Teachers.


Theodore Thorpe III (Artistic Director, Men and Women of the Gospel Choir) serves in his third season as artistic director for the Washington Performing Arts Men and Women of the Gospel. His lifelong experience as a musician brings richness to his leadership, as he draws on celebrated talent as a conductor, musical director, vocalist, pianist, organist, composer, arranger, and choral master.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Theodore Thorpe III began his musical training studying piano at the age of four. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in music with a concentration in vocal performance and pedagogy from Oakwood University and a master of arts degree in music with emphasis in choral and orchestral conducting from Morgan State University. Mr. Thorpe’s musical talents have been recognized for exemplifying musical excellence throughout the years. He is the former music director for the Washington Youth Choir, a nonprofit music program which served high school students in the D.C. metropolitan area. He has composed and arranged songs that have been published and recorded by renowned distributer GIA, including a set of Three Choral Responses that includes “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” “He is Lord,” and “Until We Meet Again.”

A multifaceted musician, Mr. Thorpe has served as artistic director and conductor at major historical performing arts centers including Carnegie Hall, the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Music Center at Strathmore, and the Kennedy Center. He presently serves in his 15th season as music director and staff musician at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, and his 11th season as director of choral activities at T.C. Williams High School. He is married to the former Jennifer Alexander, who is also a Brooklyn native, and they reside in Ft. Washington, Maryland. Mr. Thorpe believes strongly in excellence without excuses. He continues to look to make a difference in music education while blazing a trail for upcoming musicians.


Anthony “Tony” Walker

Anthony “Tony” Walker (Music Director, Men, Women, and Children of the Gospel Choirs) began his piano training in his native St. Paul, Minnesota, at age five, making his public debut at age 10. He received his master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy from Temple University. Mr. Walker’s musical background in classical, gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues has established him as a solo artist, session musician, teacher, and producer in high demand. His smooth, sophisticated style is comparable to jazz icons Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample, Bobby Lyle, and George Duke. His talent as a pianist has allowed Walker to perform for audiences on five continents, sharing the stage with acts such as Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, Raheem DeVaughn, Leela James, Kelly Price, Chaka Khan, Cynthia Erivo, The Yellow Jackets, jazz vocal group Take 6, gospel artists Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin, Maurette Brown Clark, Kim Burrell, Edwin Hawkins, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Vickie Winans, and T.D. Jakes and the Potter’s House Mass Choir. He also spent five months on Broadway and 18 months touring with The Winans in the gospel musical, Don’t Get God Started. As a solo artist, Mr. Walker has headlined at the prestigious Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. and legendary jazz venue The Blue Note in New York City. He’s also been a featured performer with National Symphony Orchestra, making his debut at the Kennedy Center in February 2019. In his role as musical director for nine-time Grammy Award nominee Ledisi, Mr. Walker performed at The White House (at the request of First Lady Michelle Obama), as well as at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and has made multiple television appearances including NBC’s Today, the CBS Morning Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Queen Latifah Show. In 2000–2001, the Smithsonian Institution invited Mr. Walker to be part of its 18-month-long exhibit of historic pianos, commemorating the 300-year anniversary of instrument’s invention. As part of this showcase, he played pianos that had been the favored instruments of artists as diverse as Liberace, Liszt, Duke Ellington, Beethoven, and Mozart.

Anthony is the music director at Hope Christian Church (Greater D.C. area) as well as music director for the Washington Performing Arts Men, Women, and Children of the Gospel. He is currently an adjunct professor of music at Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania. Anthony resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area with his wife, vocalist Bonita Walker and is the proud parent of two children, drummer Joshua and flautist Lauren.


Karon Johnson

Karon Johnson (Choreographer) is currently an educator in Prince George’s County. She is the dance director of both the Gwynn Park Middle and High School dance programs. Karon has been teaching dance for over 15 years. She is a graduate of Towson University, Townson, MD. She is currently taken up her graduate studies at Loyola University in Educational Technology. She is looking forward to bringing Health, Dance, and English Learning education to a digital platform that would be inclusive for all students. She has extensive ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, liturgical, pompon, modern, and contemporary experiences. Karon Johnson has a timeline of endless awards and recognitions for her work in choreography, performance, and teaching throughout the DMV.



Stanley J. Thurston (Artistic Director Emeritus) has led the choir with such well-known artists as BeBe Winans, Dionne Warwick, Kiri Te Kanawa, Denyce Graves, Kathleen Battle, the Canadian Brass, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and jazz legends Ramsey Lewis and Wynton Marsalis. He served as conductor of Washington Performing Arts and PostClassical Ensemble’s The Art of the Spiritual concert, and as music director for Of Thee We Sing: The Marian Anderson 75th Anniversary Celebration, presented by Washington Performing Arts, conducting a 250-voice choir comprising choruses from around the D.C. area. He has been commissioned to compose and conduct two works for Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir, including a musical tribute for President Obama’s Inaugural Prayer Service in 2009. Additional performances have included a recording of holiday music for Sirius Radio, guest appearances at Washington National Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, and NBC’s Today. Choruses under his direction have performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Royal Ballet, among others. As a conductor, he has appeared in concert venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the U.S. Capitol, the Music Center at Strathmore, Carter Barron Amphitheater, DAR Constitution Hall, Arena Stage, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington National Cathedral, and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, the Soulful Symphony, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Civic Symphony, Prince George’s Philharmonic, and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Thurston is a graduate of Morgan State University, mentored by the renowned Dr. Nathan Carter, and a graduate of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen (Colorado), where he studied conducting with Murry Sidlin. Mr. Thurston conducted opera performances of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (September 2017) and Così fan tutte (April 2016), Beethoven’s Fidelio (June 2016), Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land (October 2015), Bellini’s La Sonnambula (January 2015), Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio (September 2013), and La Clemenza di Tito (2013) with The In Series. Mr. Thurston led a concert version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with the Heritage Signature Chorale and Orchestra (2011), following Heritage Signature Chorale’s debut of the same work with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (2010) and subsequent debut performance with the National Symphony Orchestra (2016) at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Mr. Thurston directed the 250-voice choir that performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the National Symphony Orchestra for the opening of The REACH.

Mr. Thurston is the founding artistic director of the Heritage Signature Chorale, director of music ministries at Foundry United Methodist Church, and artist-in-residence at Washington National Cathedral.