Get Ignited: Phil Woodmore


Welcome to Get Ignited! This column will feature and celebrate people who are up to exciting things. You’ll learn more about their stories and how they bring their spark to the world. I will explore their strengths and who they are at their best. Maybe you’ll catch a bit of their inspiration—something we all can use a dose of these days.

This month, I am featuring Dr. Phil Woodmore, a man who not only creates bright futures for his music students, but who also directs and creates soul-stirring experiences that lead to transformative conversations. Woodmore is a musician, composer, conductor, director, author and teacher who cultivates some of the nation’s finest talent. He is a man who thinks big … REALLY BIG—not just for himself, but for everyone who is lucky enough to be in his world or audience.

As social issues have moved to the forefront of America’s conscience, Woodmore has become a go-to for creating collective experiences that transport audiences. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he co-led an event that included a reading of “The Drum Major Instinct,” one of King’s final sermons. When the virtual curtain was raised, more than 3,000 people from more than 20 countries were in attendance. Woodmore composed original scores that were performed by The Phil Woodmore Singers, and King’s haunting sermon was read by a cast that included U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman and actor Moses Ingram of The Queen’s Gambit. Ultimately, the international audience shared their reactions to and thoughts about the words and lessons of Dr. King. (A virtual choir performance of the composition “Be Steadfast” can be found on YouTube.)

Recently, one of the largest banks in the world asked Woodmore to bring his gifts to their advertising campaign. Citi commissioned him to compose and play a version of “America the Beautiful” using only the white keys of a piano, and then a version using both the black and white keys. In just 45 seconds, Woodmore drove the point home that we are better together. The recording can be found on Citi’s Facebook page.

In the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Woodmore was asked to compose and direct a related musical experience based on the Greek tragedy Antigone. He brought together local police officers, protesters, civic leaders and educators to form a choir. Veteran actors came to Ferguson and read ancient texts while the choir brought the house down with its moving performance. According to Woodmore, the music “created an outlet and an open door for the audience to have an honest and genuine conversation—not just discussing what you should be saying and what people want to hear.” Antigone in Ferguson became a blockbuster success, travelling across the U.S. and Europe and airing on PBS.

Woodmore is a gifted musician, but what sets him apart is how he combines this talent with his ability to connect people and inspire them to go beyond what they thought was possible. His students may find themselves going from timid to fully expressive. Members of his audiences may find themselves speaking when they’ve been silent or listening when they’ve been distracted. Some may soften their edges, while others may find their strength. No matter what, everyone will know they’ve been part of something worthwhile.

For more information and a video of our full interview with Dr. Woodmore, please visit



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