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Local “Music Man” Quarterfinalist for 2017 Grammy Award
Written by Gabby Glinski Correspondent

Dr. Mark Thomas, Music Supervisor at Upper Perkiomen High School, finished his school year last Friday by directing the Uptones Choir  at graduation exercises. Thomas has been selected as a quarterfinalist for the 2017 Music Educator Grammy Award.

        When one thinks about music in our four county corner of the Commonwealth, where Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery Counties meet, one name consistently surfaces as a dedicated leader in the musical arts - Dr. Mark Thomas.

        Dr. Thomas has been creating and directing musical events, while teaching and inspiring a new generation to aspire in the world of music for decades.  Now it looks like the secret of the local, musical icon is out and we need to share him with a stage that could reach all the way to California.

        He is the Music Supervisor at Upper Perkiomen High School and has been selected as a quarterfinalist for the 2017 Music Educator Grammy Award.  The Music Educators Award was established in 2014 as a way to recognize music educators who have made a lasting contribution to their schools and community and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in schools.

        Thomas received notification of his nomination over email.  He stated he was surprised when he received the news, but was not permitted to tell anyone until very recently.  "I told my wife as soon as I found out," he joked, "I guess I broke the rules."

        Thomas shared that after getting the email, he started receiving phone calls and invitations to several meetings and dinners.  He doesn't know who nominated him, but he thanks the community for doing so.

        "If the people, student and co-workers that I've worked with didn't believe in what I was doing, I couldn't have gotten the recognition that I did," stated Thomas.

        Thomas, an alumnus of Upper Perkiomen High School, came back to his alma-mater as the choir director. His position widened when he initiated the orchestra program in the elementary, middle and high school. Thomas also campaigned to bring back the musical theater program by creating theater classes. The musical theater program made a comeback after Thomas's efforts and has been steady ever since.

        In 2007, Thomas was asked to serve as a supervisor of music at Upper Perk.  He currently oversees the K-12 music program and provides guidance to teachers as well as curriculum building.   

        After college, Thomas was hired as the assistant director of the Schuylkill County Community Chorus, which at the time had 30 members. Within the following year, Thomas was hired as director. The group took off over the last 30 years, growing into a 100 member audition choir.

        This summer, the choir is taking their seventh tour in Europe. In their last tour, the choir performed in Notre Dame, The Vatican and St. Petersburg. Thomas also conducted Mozart's Mass in C Major "Coronation" in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Austria where Mozart debuted the piece.

        The chorus was recognized by President Bill Clinton in 1995 for its performance in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative World War II concert. The group has also performed the national anthem at Philadelphia Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games. The choir also has recorded a couple of professional albums.

        Thomas founded the Anthracite Philharmonic in Schuylkill County and the Minor Notes Chorale Children's Chorus.  Several Upper Perk students have the privilege to play with the Anthracite Philharmonic; which gives them the opportunity to play alongside professionals.

        "It influences the students a lot, and you can see the difference when they come back to school. It's a really good learning opportunity," Thomas stated. He tries to involve the high school students with the groups he directs as much as possible.

        Thomas is also an adjunct professor at Alvernia University and has also guest conducted for many professional organizations, including the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Orchestra and the New York Pops. Thomas was recognized by the US House of Representatives for his contributions in music and representing the country at home and abroad.
        On July 3, the Anthracite Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing at the Yuengling Mansion in Pottsville at 2:00 p.m. Five Upper Perk students will be performing with the orchestra.
        The semi-finalists of the 2017 Music Educator Grammy Award will be announced in September 2016 with the winner being announced during Grammy week in February 2017.





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