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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

There’s No American History Without Black History

Theodore+Thorpe+poses+in+front+of+his+whiteboard.
Peter Russo
Theodore Thorpe poses in front of his whiteboard.

For the musically-inclined students of ACHS, Theodore Thorpe is a well known pillar of the creative arts program. Thorpe has been working as the choir director since 2010, but he’s had a passion for music much longer. Growing up surrounded by musicians, Thorpe has been inspired from a young age to express himself creatively.  

“I come from a musical family, my dad was a former conductor, my mom actually performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall in the 70s, I have cousins that sing, aunts, uncles, so we come from a rich musical background and family history,” said Thorpe.

While many are familiar with his singing and choir skills, Thorpe has also engaged in a wide variety of musical outlets throughout his life.  

“I was always going to be a musician, and being a musician encompassed a lot of different aspects within music, singing is just one. I also teach, play a few instruments, also compose and arrange, and conduct as well,” said Thorpe. “Music was always going to be part of my life.”

This passion doesn’t just stop at music, but extends to teaching as well. As choir director, Thorpe’s relationship with students is also an important part of his career. 

“My favorite part about teaching is growth and learning.  One of the joys of teaching is seeing growth and learning taking place from day to day, from class to class, from week to week, month to month, and school season to school season,” said Thorpe.

 Thorpe was able to play a significant role in ACHS’s Black History Month celebration this past February. With a program that had various creative performances, from slam poetry to theatre, Thorpe led the choir in three songs that celebrated black music  with each song carefully chosen to reflect Black History. 

Lift Every Voice and Sing was the first song,” said Thorpe. “That anthem, which was penned by James Willman Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosman Johnson, is a staple of what it means to be part of the black experience in America, which juxtaposes hope and struggle at the same time. So as much [there is] struggle we deal with, and challenges that seem to repeat themself, there is always an element of hope for a better tomorrow.” 

The other two pieces, Walk Together Children and Rocking Jerusalem, both arranged by Stacy V. Gibbs, were similarly chosen for their reflection of the Black experience in America.

Thorpe expanded on the importance of celebrating Black History Month at ACHS. 

“It’s important because black history is American history.  There is no American history without black history,” said Thorpe. “Going all the way back through the Civil War and Reconstruction, through Jim Crow laws, through segregation to where we are today, everything we enjoy today and sometimes take for granted, we would not have had it not been for my forefathers and mothers who worked, bled, and in many ways died, so that we would have the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness today.” 

Thorpe has made memories with music his whole life, and will hopefully continue to do so for many more years. Most recently, he was invited to perform on Saturday Night Live with Coldplay. 

When asked about his legacy, Thorpe remains humble.

“I think I’d leave that to the history makers to talk about legacy, I kind of cringe to talk about myself in that way,” said Thorpe.

Thorpe closes with the notion that he hopes to have a lasting effect on his students.

“I hope at least in the time that I have served here I have left an impact on students. I think in many ways I am a father figure to these students, not just as a teacher but as a mentor. I hope it just shows that I am a man of integrity, a man of my word, and that I exemplify what love looks like,” said Thorpe.

Photos of Thorpe and choir at winter concert here.

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