The William D. Thomas, Jr. Music Scholarship was founded and personally/permanently endowed by Mark Cabaniss in 2024 to honor his beloved Mars Hill College (University) choral director, Bill Thomas. It was established to provide financial assistance to students who have declared music as their major at Mars Hill University.
Selection is made by the Financial Aid Committee of Mars Hill University based upon the recommendation of music faculty members and Mark Cabaniss. Candidates must meet the following criteria:
- Available to students regardless of classification (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or transfer)
- Have a high school or college grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
- Must have declared music as a major and accepted into the Mars Hill University music department.
The scholarship is awarded annually.
For more information or to apply, contact the Mars Hill University Admissions Department at (828) 689-1201 or visit www.mhu.edu to learn more about Mars Hill University.
About William D. Thomas, Jr.
William Thomas grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina surrounded by a large, loving and encouraging family. He was exposed early on to music in church and in school and benefited greatly from the excellent and dedicated teachers who recognized and nurtured his love for music. A first-generation college student, his choosing to pursue a degree and career in music seemed daunting, but somehow completely appropriate. Mars Hill College and its excellent cadre of highly-trained, fully-invested faculty and its host of curious, gifted students proved to be exactly the right fit. After graduate training at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a year of full-time church music service, Thomas received one of his life’s highest compliments when he was asked to return to Mars Hill as a faculty member. In addition to building dozens of life-long relationships with students and colleagues, completing a doctoral degree at Florida State University, and assuming leadership of the College Choir were especially important milestones during his tenure there. His experience at Mars Hill allowed him to polish his craft, learn from more than a few mistakes, and look eagerly toward new challenges.
Joining its faculty in 1987, Thomas served in Furman University’s Music Department, teaching studio voice, conducting, church music courses, vocal pedagogy and conducting major works for choir and orchestra. He served as Department Chair for nearly two decades, leading the department to growth, stability, innovation, and recognition for achievement. In partnership with the Accademia dell ‘Arte in Arezzo, Italy, he led the department’s uniquely structured semester long study away program, Music in Italy. His work as director of the Furman Chamber Choir included the institution of the highly anticipated annual presentation of the King’s College inspired A Festival of Lessons and Carols in Furman’s acoustically stunning Daniel Chapel.
His career has been marked by fervent activity as a solo and ensemble singer, conductor, and clinician, more than forty years of college teaching and administration, and a number of significant church music positions. He was also privileged to have worked closely with the late Robert Shaw, studying, performing, and recording in the United States and abroad. His association with Mr. Shaw led to his being named Director of the 1998 Robert Shaw Choral Institute, held on the Furman campus, and to his work as assistant editor of Robert Blocker’s A Robert Shaw Reader, Yale University Press, 2004. In August 2024 Thomas will serve as a jury member for the prestigious Polifonico, an international choral competition held annually under the auspices of La Fondazione Guido d’Arezzo in Italy.
In addition to traveling far and wide with his best friend and wife Jane, he may be found working in his garden, cooking in his wood-fired oven or trout fishing in the streams of western North Carolina, near his summer home in Yancey County, often with his grandson, Will.