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Black Arts and Culture

Boys Choir Performs At Reception For Maestro Wilkins’ VSO Appointment

By Julius McCullogh
Special To The New Journal and Guide

Maestro Thomas Wilkins returns to Norfolk as First Ever Principal Guest Conductor of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO) after a 17-year run as musical director for the Omaha Symphony.  He is still the principal conductor at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and conducts for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

A reception to announce his VSO appointment

which was held at Chrysler Hall on Monday, July 19, 2021, was electrifying. The audience numbered more than three hundred guests, many who were alumni of Maestro Wilkins’ high school, The Historic Booker T. Washington High School of Norfolk.  He graduated in the class of 1974.

As Artistic Director of the Boys Choir of Hampton Roads (BCHR), to be asked to contribute to this auspicious and historical event was an honor I shall never forget. The boys performed three selections, “A Jubilant Gloria” in honor of the glorious occasion; “Make Them Hear You” in honor of the change to come; and “Total Praise”, the praising of God for this moment.

We are off to changing the music paradigm in Norfolk and Hampton Roads. The inclusion of more African Americans in the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, from the board to the orchestra and repertoire itself, is the achievable goal. This great event marks a commonality of purpose and a dream which will no longer be deferred.

VSO Board Chair Mike McClellan said Wilkins and Eric Jacobson, Conductor of the VSO, “Share the VSO’s commitment to telling our community’s stories and advancing the important conversations that will promote understanding and belonging among all our residents.”

Many were drawn to tears, including myself, hearing the wonderful accolades bestowed upon the Boys Choir for their outstanding performance by Jacobson and Maestro Wilkins. Thank you, gentlemen, for your endorsement of my passion for teaching these young men. Your kind and heartfelt comments give great honor to the Boys Choir organization.

The BCHR has grown in musicianship and artistry and is on par with any performing arts organization in this city. It’s the promise that I made when I took over as artistic director. The goal is achieved.


The BCHR formerly, Park place Boys Choir, was organized in September 1997 as a resource for boys in the Park Place area of Norfolk.

Thank you, Mrs. Geraldine T. Boone, for you vision as founder of this great Boys Choir in 1997 and continuing as its awesome accompanist.

Thank you Dr. Brynda Parker, Chairman of the Board of Directors for you dedication and diligence.

And a special thank you to Karen Philion, President and CEO, VSO, who so graciously contacted me to help plan this great event.

If you are looking for a positive outlet for your young boy, join the BCHR. Call 757-589-0586 for more information.

I’ve heard many speaking of purchasing season tickets to the VSO this year. This is our VSO, and we must support it. The VSO is offering a special reduced subscription to friends of the Boys Choir of Hampton Roads. 

Welcome home, Thomas Wilkins!

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