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Artistic Directors

Michele Fowlin

Michele Fowlin (Artistic Director, Children of the Gospel Choir) has cultivated her love and passion of 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. 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 music director and vocal coach, is the director of choral programs at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, and has conducted various church youth 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 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

Theodore Thorpe III (Artistic Director, Men and Women of the Gospel Choir) 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 was the former music director for the Washington Youth Choir, a nonprofit music program which served all 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 14th season as music director and staff musician at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, and his tenth 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.


Stanley J. Thurston

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.