In Remembrance: Steven L. Thomas ’95MusM, ’03MusAD Died on July 12 2020

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Dr. Steven Thomas of Kingston, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully on July 12, 2020, in Philadelphia, following complications from acute myeloid leukemia. His loving wife, Susan Minsavage, was by his side. Steven had been on leave from Wilkes University, where he was professor of music and chair of the Division of Performing Arts.

Born July 14, 1970, Steven was a native of Kansas City, Missouri. He studied conducting with Jameson Marvin at Harvard University before earning the doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting from Yale, where his principal teacher was Marguerite Brooks. During his career, he appeared as guest conductor at numerous festivals and prepared choruses for a variety of ensembles and artists, including the Hartford Symphony and the Boston Camerata. He also taught at the Governor’s School of North Carolina for several summers. 

Steven became the director of choral activities at Wilkes University in 1999. In addition to teaching various classes within the music curriculum, he led the University Chorus and the Chamber Singers. Outside of the university, Steven was the music director of the Arcadia Chorale (formerly the Robert Dale Chorale). Under his leadership, the Chorale appeared at the American Choral Directors Association convention, produced multiple recordings, and premiered several of Steven’s arrangements and original compositions, including “Look to This Day” in 2005, and “Joy, Shipmate, Joy” in 2010. 

As part of his active performance schedule, Steven continued the Chorale’s tradition of hosting a yearly Bach Festival, during which he led the Chorale and the Bach Festival Orchestra in performances of major works, including the B Minor Mass and St. John Passion. He also sang tenor in the Lyric Consort, an a cappella ensemble specializing in medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary works. 

Steven frequently sought opportunities for his students to collaborate with other performing groups, such as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, for whom he was chorus master. Collaborations between the Wilkes choral ensembles and the Arcadia Chorale were especially meaningful for him. Most recently, in March 2018, he directed singers and instrumentalists from across the region in a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.  

Steven’s interests outside of music cannot be easily summarized, although he had a particular fondness for astronomy and being outdoors. Mostly, he was interested in the betterment of the human condition, a cause he sought to advance through his art and his mentorship of students and colleagues, using a sharp mind and a gentle heart in equal measure. He has been honored by being Wilkes University’s first recipient of the Arthur J. Hoover Legacy Award for his “accomplishments as a dedicated educator, talented artist, and beloved member of the campus community.”

In addition to his wife, Steven is survived by his parents, Marian and Timothy Thomas (Kansas); brother Peter Thomas, sister-in-law Diana Steele, and their daughters (Ohio); and sister Julie Thomas (Kansas). He is deeply mourned as a brother and uncle by his Minsavage family as well. 

A private service was held on July 14, 2020. A public celebration of Steven's life is being planned for the future, when it is safe to gather and honor this gifted and compassionate teacher, musician, and friend.

—Submitted by the family.

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