HAMPTON ROADS, VA [August 12, 2021] — The VSO is proud to welcome experienced music educator and conductor Helen Martell as its new Director of Education and Staff Conductor.
This new position reflects restructuring at a moment of artistic transition in the organization. Alongside recently appointed Music Director Eric Jacobsen and Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins, Martell will round out the VSO’s new musical leadership team and bring a new level of expertise and experience to one of the pillars of its core mission, music education.
In her position, Martell will be responsible for the design and execution of the VSO’s broad education activities and will conduct the VSO’s education and family concerts. She brings not only more than two decades of experience and dedication in the field of public-school music education, but also a demonstrated commitment to and enthusiasm for equity, diversity and inclusion. She will continue as the Music Director and Symphony Orchestra Conductor of the Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia, the region’s premier youth orchestra.
Martell taught string orchestra at The Academy of International Studies and Young Scholars at Rosemont for the Norfolk Public Schools for 18 years. Prior to that she taught middle school and high school orchestra in Chesapeake for 8 years. She has been with the Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia since 2001.
Karen Philion, VSO President and CEO, said, “I believe Helen’s leadership will take the VSO’s education programs to a new level of professionalism and impact. She is a person of unusual ability, energy and dedication, and we are fortunate to have her join our team.”
As the region’s most celebrated musical, educational and entrepreneurial arts organization, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra continues to challenge expectations and push the boundaries of what an American orchestra can be. Innovation and excellence are at the heart of the VSO’s narrative.
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 commitment to adventurous programming, the VSO and its musicians have been highlighted in the media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio and BBC Worldwide News.
As the largest performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia, the VSO and VSO Chorus present more than 150 concerts and events annually for more than 100,000 residents and visitors. Recent innovations include health and wellness programs, including interactive therapeutic experiences for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and adopting welcoming concert environments for those who are neurodiverse. Since 2019, the VSO has been recognized nationally for striving to reflect the region’s ethnic and racial diversity in its members, its programming, and its leadership.
The selection of the young and dynamic conductor Eric Jacobsen as music director earlier this year was another bold step forward for the VSO, further expanding its vision to attract wider and larger audiences with engaging concert experiences and creative and relevant programming. Rounding out the artistic leadership team is Norfolk native Thomas Wilkins in the role of Principal Guest Conductor, reflecting the VSO’s commitment to tell its community’s stories and advance the important conversations that will promote understanding and belonging among all residents.