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Faculty In Focus: Van Thorton

Vann Thornton is Mount Vernon’s Director of Music Industry and has been teaching at Mount Vernon since 2019.  Vann has been a music educator for three decades and is an esteemed member of the southeastern music community.   Originally from Savannah, Van studied at Troy University receiving both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also received a master’s degree from Southwestern Seminary and advanced degrees from Boston University.  

Vann began teaching music in the public school system in 1981. During his tenure as a music teacher, he also continued to perform as a professional singer, keyboardist, and trumpet player throughout the southeast. Tom Jones, Lou Rawls, and the Temptations are among the talent with whom Vann has performed. He has also fronted his own bands including The Cartoons, Nightfire, and the Reunion Blues and Soul Revue

Broadening his experience as a music industry professional, Vann also owned his own recording studio and recording label, named Sonicomm Records, and produced dozens of artists, jingles, and wrote music for concert bands as well as songs for artists of all genres. In 1999 he wrote all of the music for an album by Marlene Bowen called This Man of Mine, composing each song from a female perspective and for which he received an Independent Album of the Year award from DiscMakers.

In 2012, Vann was honored by the Woodruff Arts Center for outstanding Arts Education Leadership, and in 2014 the Savannah Arts Academy Music Program awarded Vann with a Grammy Award, and named him as a finalist for Grammy Teacher of the Year.

At Mount Vernon, Vann leads both the Upper School Chapel Band and the Upper School Rock Band. This semester Vann is also starting a Middle School Chapel Band. The Upper School band has been twice invited to the prestigious Mic Check Invitational where we performed virtually last year and will perform live this year.  Vann is also helping to conceive the first ever “Jazz Night” at Mount Vernon to be held later this semester. Jazz night is an opportunity for students to experience a real-world authentic improvisational jazz setting with professional musicians. Jazz, like speaking a language, is a music of the ear, and performing with professionals is the key to getting students to really internalize the sounds of the music. “Much like we learn to speak by “speaking with professionals” like parents, jazz is best learned in the same way,” Vann notes, and he is excited for this opportunity for the students to begin to develop this part of their musicianship.

Vann still performs occasionally, but most of his professional focus these days is on creating the very best Music Industry program at Mount Vernon that he can. In his free time, Vann loves to spend time with his wife, Courtney, cooking, hiking, golfing, and doing any activity they can with their dog, Scout. Vann has four sons ages 24 to 41 and four grandchildren ages 5 to 18.