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Staff & Board

Virginia Children’s Chorus
Carol Thomas Downing, Founder / Artistic Director
Grace Parkinson, Executive Director
Artistic Staff
Louisa Priore, Training Choir Director
Paul Putnam, Chamber Singers Director
Donald Burt, Music Staff
Welby Pugin, Accompanist & Arranger
Sharon Foxwell, Training Choir Accompanist & Chorister Rehearsal Accompanist
Artistic & Administrative Support Staff
 Linda Crawford, Business Manager
Suzette Corey, Chorus Manager
Brianna Murray, Asst Chorus Manager
Board of Directors
  Anthony M. Sparagno, Jr., President
Debbie Porter, Treasurer
Linda Crawford
Christy Frederick
Lari Roberts
Bonnie Whitehurst
  Artistic Staff Headshot - compressed 2013

Carol Thomas Downing is the Founder / Artistic Director of the Virginia Children’s Chorus. An experienced singer, children’s choral director, classical violinist and Celtic fiddler, Ms. Downing has trained young musicians from preschool through the university level. She holds a B.A. degree in voice, graduating summa cum laude from Towson University and received her Masters of Music degree in music education with Kodály emphasis from the University of St. Thomas.  Her teachers include Ruth Drucker (voice) and Berl Senofsky (violin).  Ms. Downing serves on the faculties of The Academy of Music (Norfolk, VA) and The Walden School for Young Composers (Dublin, NH) and is the Middle School Music Specialist at Ghent Montessori School.  She is Founder and past director of the Peabody Children’s Chorus (Baltimore) and a contributing author to The Walden School Musicianship Course:  A Manual for Teachers, (2002).  She guest conducts for All-City & District Chorus events, teaches at Suzuki violin workshops and frequently performs as a fiddler and singer for Irish events.  Ms. Downing holds Kodály certification and is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, The Organization of Kodály Educators and the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Paul Putnam is the Chamber Singers Director for the Virginia Children's Chorus.  Paul received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a concentration in organ and voice in 1992 and his Master’s degree in Music Education with Kodály emphasis from the University of Hartford, Hartt School of Music in 2013.  Paul has taught Vocal/General Music at all levels K-12 since 1992.  Most recently, Paul taught for the past 11 years in Virginia Beach at New Castle Elementary School where he was named the 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year.  Currently, Paul is the Choral Director at Smithfield High School in Smithfield, VA.  In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Paul is also the Music Director at Oakland Christian United Church of Christ in Suffolk.  Paul holds active memberships in the American Orff-Schulwerk Association(AOSA), American Choral Directors Association(ACDA) & the National Association For Music Education(NAFME).

Louisa Priore is the Training Choir director for the Virginia Children's Chorus. She holds a B.A. degree from the State University of New York.  She completed the Kodály Level III certification class at James Madison University in 2003.  Mrs. Priore has served on the VCC staff since 2001 in a variety of teaching roles:  as solfège instructor for the Concert Choir and as rehearsal assistant and substitute director for the Training Choir, Choristers, and Concert Choir.  Mrs. Priore has over twenty-five years experience teaching in the classroom and privately. In addition to her work with the VCC, Mrs. Priore has taught musicianship classes at The Academy of Music (Norfolk, VA) and at the summer choral camp at James Madison University.  She served as worship leader and Director of Music and Arts at Bayview Baptist Church from 2001-2004 where she taught music to children and directed a children’s musical.   Mrs. Priore has begun studies for her masters in music degree at James Madison University. She is a member of the Organization of Kodály Educators.

Welby Pugin is the accompanist and arranger for the Virginia Children’s Chorus.  He has performed extensively as both soloist and accompanist.  He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in piano from Indiana University where he studied with Sidney Foster, Abbey Simon and Jorge Bolet.  In addition to accompanying, Mr. Pugin has composed many vocal and instrumental arrangements for the VCC including “Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head” (1999) and “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread” (2002, 2004).  Prior to moving to Norfolk, Mr. Pugin taught at universities in Indiana, Idaho and New Jersey and established private studios in Georgia and Texas.  He and his wife Suzanne are owners and directors of the Ghent Montessori School in Norfolk.  

Sharon Foxwell is the accompanist for the Training Choir and for Choristers’ Wednesday night rehearsals.  She was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in applied piano from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL where she was a student of Ronald Shinn and Harald Rohlig.  Sharon also earned a Master of Church Music with the honors certificate in accompanying from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mrs. Foxwell has been a church organist for over thirty-five years, having served churches in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and Virginia.  She currently serves as Director of Music and Organist at Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church in Norfolk. She is a choral accompanist for Chesapeake Public Schools, including Great Bridge High, Deep Creek High, Crestwood Middle and Greenbrier Middle. For the past several years she has accompanied the District IV Middle School Chorus as well as All City Chorus events in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. As accompanist during the Sacred Music Summer Conference at Virginia Wesleyan College she has worked with such noted clinicians as Helen Kemp, Lloyd Pfautsch, Mark Hayes, Andre Thomas, and John Leavitt.

Mrs. Foxwell has performed in the Virginia Arts Festival as part of the Organ Swell recital series. She holds membership in the Tidewater Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, The American Choral Directors Association and the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. Her keyboard arrangements have been published in Pedalpoint.

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