Clarice LaVerne Thompson, Faculty


In this interview, Clarice LaVerne Thompson discusses her educational and professional path to becoming a visiting professor in Africana Studies and Music Director at Brown University, and founder of RPM Voices of Rhode Island.

Thompson begins by describing her childhood and early education in Jackson, Tennessee, and Yonkers, New York. She talks about briefly attending Elmhurst College in Illinois and dropping out to hold various positions, including one with RCA Records. She explains that profits from a musical she wrote, Song of Sheba, allowed her to go back to college, this time at Lane College in Tennessee. She goes on to explain why she continued her education and pursued a master’s and PhD at the University of Mississippi, graduating as the first Black woman to earn a PhD in music history from the school.

Thompson also discusses being hired at Brown in 2002, teaching, and completing her dissertation at the same time. In particular, she elaborates on her work with Rites and Reason Theatre and Elmo Terry-Morgan. She explains that it was after her contract with Brown ended in 2009 that she established RPM Voices of Rhode Island as a non-profit organization. She ends her interview by detailing her work with the Providence School System teaching music to high school students and developing a music curriculum, as well as her work with RPM Voices.

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on August 27, 2019 in Central Falls, RI
Interviewed by Amanda Knox, Pembroke Center Assistant Archivist, and Diane Straker, Administrative Assistant

Suggested Chicago style citation: Thompson, Clarice LaVerne. Interview. By Amanda Knox and Diane Straker. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. August 27, 2019.


Dr. Clarice LaVerne Thompson, musicologist, is a multi AUDELCO award-winning composer and musical director. Her award-winning musical scores include, Song of Sheba, Crescent Tales, and Ophelia’s Cotillion (book and lyrics written by Elmo Terry-Morgan ). Some of Thompson’s other musicals or plays with music are Hot Comb, Profiles and Shadows, and Heart to Heart (books by Terry-Morgan); The Children’s Legacy (book by Lola Loui); and Harriet Jacobs by Lydia Diamond. She has been a public school educator, and was a Professor of African American Music at Brown University from 2002 – 2009. Her Bachelor of Arts in Music was conferred at the Historically Black College, Lane College, in Jackson, Tennessee. Thompson received her Master of Music in music composition and her Doctor of Arts in music history both from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. She has toured the United States, Europe and Japan as an entertainer, music director and composer.

Thompson founded RPM Voices of Rhode Island in 2003 (then known as the RPM Singers). Since then, over 200 people have performed with RPM Voices of Rhode Island. As of 2019, Thompson serves as Minister of Music at Bethel AME Church and Gospel Choir Director at Beneficent Congregational Church, both in Providence, Rhode Island; and as a consultant for the Providence Public School Department of Fine Arts. As a theatre music director, she worked on productions for the Boston Center for the Arts, Company One Theatre, Central Square Theatre, and the Underground Railroad Theatre. She has locally directed at Mixed Magic Theatre, The Providence Black Rep, and was resident Music Director at Rites and Reason Theatre during her time at Brown University. She has directed at the National Black Theatre in New York and numerous other theatres in New York, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and international venues in Japan.