Born: Birmingham, AL

Choral Piano Andre Kostelanetz

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Joseph Hugh Thomas (born c. 1912 - died July 24, 2002) was a choral conductor, pianist and educator, perhaps best remembered for his role as conductor of the renowned Concert Choir of Birmingham-Southern College. He served for many years as chairman of the Department of Music at BSC. His work has been honored numerous times by professional organizations such as the American Choral Directors Association.

Education and career

Thomas received his bachelor's degree from Birmingham-Southern in 1933 and bachelor's and master's degrees from the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. He studied piano with Dorsey Whittington and conducting with Robert Shaw. He also studied analysis with Julius Hereford at the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, Mass. In 1951, he made his professional debut as a conductor of the Hugh Thomas Chorus at Town Hall in New York. He also was a piano soloist with Andre Kostelanetz. He became dean of the BSC Conservatory of Music in 1947, was chairman of the Department of Music from 1964-1972. He returned to full-time teaching in 1972 and retired in 1982, and directed the BSC Concert Choir from 1964-1993. As stated on the website of Birmingham-Southern Department of Music, "The Concert Choir’s history began with late BSC music professors Raymond Anderson and Hugh Thomas. Each brought his musicianship and dedication to the Concert Choir and established the foundation of quality the college strives to continue today." That tradition of excellence is carried on today by Dr Lester Siegel, the current conductor of the Concert Choir, who holds the Joseph Hugh Thomas endowed professorship at Birmingham-Southern. The Barbara and Hugh Thomas Scholarship was created at the college in 1998 to honor Professor Emeritus of Music Thomas and his wife, Barbara Dorough Thomas, a 1937 BSC graduate and prominent Birmingham musician and teacher.

The Birmingham Concert Chorale

In 1966, the Birmingham Concert Chorale was founded as the Birmingham Civic Chorus, under the direction of Bruce Tolbert of the University of Montevallo. The name of the ensemble was changed in 1977 to the Birmingham Concert Chorale. The list of past conductors of the group include notable directors such as Hugh Thomas, Thomas Gibbs, Timothy Banks, and David Smith. The Chorale has long been associated with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and is formally designated as “The official chorus of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.” The Chorale’s mission includes the continuance of its rich choral tradition.

Notable Students

A list of notable students of Hugh Thomas includes (among many others): Dr Angela Batey, Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Tennessee; Dr Donald Oglesby, Director of the University of Miami Collegium Musicum and the Chamber Singers; Mark Ridings, director of the Birmingham Concert Chorale; and Ray Reach, former instructor of music technology at UAB and director of the UAB Jazz Ensemble, currently Director of Student Jazz Programs at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.


Hugh Thomas (choral conductor). (June 17, 2008). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
Birmingham-Southern music legend Hugh Thomas dies. (July 25, 2002). Birmingham-Southern press release. Retrieved June 24, 2008.


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