• Press Release

Virginia Symphony Hires New Director of Diversity and Engagement



Words and Images Courtesy of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra


HAMPTON ROADS, VA [January 24, 2022] After an extensive search process, the Virginia Symphony is proud to announce the recent addition of Nikki Thorpe as Director of Diversity and Engagement.


“The VSO is continuing our commitment to further bring equity, diversity, and inclusion to the space of classical music,” said President and CEO, Karen Philion. “The Director of Diversity and Engagement will strengthen and develop relationships with community members previously underserved by the VSO and serve as a resource for staff working on individual equity plans, work with departments to expand internship opportunities to encourage, mentor, and retain BIPOC staff, and provide overall administrative support for ongoing cultural competency/implicit bias training for stakeholder groups.”


Since 2019, the VSO has endeavored to increase the diversity of its workforce, musicians, and audiences. With the addition of Thomas Wilkins as Principal Guest Conductor in 2021, the launch of its African American Fellowships program in January of 2022, the VSO will continue this momentum by securing a new Director of Diversity and Engagement.


In her new role, Mrs. Thorpe will be the primary point person for all the VSO’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. Partnering with the Board of Directors to advance EDI goals, Mrs. Thorpe will also help develop the vision and execution of the VSO’s Harmony Project, which seeks to create opportunities for collaboration among VSO musicians and musicians of historically Black churches across Hampton Roads. Her extensive experience as a diversity professional has seen her successfully advocating for and achieving organizational change by creating concerts and events with a multi-ethic focus.

Mrs. Thorpe starts on February 2, 2022.

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As the region’s most celebrated musical, educational, and entrepreneurial arts organization, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra challenges expectations and pushes the boundaries of what an American orchestra can be.


Driven by a core belief of excellence and innovation, the VSO has received national attention for its unique mission serving a home area of 1.7 million across the diverse communities of southeastern Virginia. Through appearances at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and its commitment to adventurous programming, the VSO and its musicians have been highlighted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and BBC Worldwide News.


Presenting more than 150 concerts and events annually for over 100,000 residents and visitors, the VSO and VSO Chorus are the largest performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia. Recent innovations include health and wellness programs, interactive therapeutic experiences for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and adopting welcoming concert environments for neurodiverse audiences. Since 2019, the VSO has been nationally recognized for striving to reflect the region’s ethnic and racial diversity in its members, programming, and leadership.


Selecting the young and dynamic conductor Eric Jacobsen as music director earlier this year was yet another bold step forward, further expanding the VSO’s vision to attract wider and larger audiences with engaging concert experiences and creative, relevant programming. With Norfolk native Thomas Wilkins as the artistic leadership team’s Principal Guest Conductor, VSO is committed to telling its community’s stories and advancing conversations that promote understanding and belonging among all residents.

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