Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Theresa Erichsen

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Co-Founder and Executive Director
VCU Health Orchestra

A registered nurse and healthcare administrator, Theresa Erichsen has been a freelance French horn player with orchestras in the Richmond, VA, area for more than 25 years. “I was a nurse by day, a musician by night, never thinking my worlds would collide,” Erichsen says. But collide they did, and happily so, in the form of the VCU Health Orchestra, which she co-founded in 2017 and has managed and played in ever since.

The orchestra, part of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, for which Erichsen has worked since 2011, has more than 80 musicians on its roster. They include nurses, physicians, administrative and support staff, students, alumni, and community musicians. Everyone is a volunteer, except for its two conductors. Weekly rehearsal is on Wednesday night, and the concerts, typically three or four a year, are free and draw attendance of up to 800. In August, Erichsen started a second group, the VCU Health Wind Ensemble.

“There is a strong connection between medicine and music,” says Erichsen, a board member of the National Association of Medical Orchestras, which has about 40 member orchestras in the U.S. “Many of us who have gone into the medical field either majored in music or played an instrument throughout school.” The level is high in the VCU Health Orchestra, whose concertmaster, for example, is an employee of the university’s School of Medicine with a graduate degree in violin performance.

The orchestra’s repertoire is a mix of classical and pops. Last season it performed Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, with chorus and soloists. The 2023-24 season opened with a side-by-side concert with Randolph-Macon College music students; a pre-recorded holiday concert is to be streamed in December. A shining hour for the orchestra came as the pandemic abated in 2022, when it collaborated with the Richmond Symphony and Chorus in an outdoor concert that saluted healthcare workers.

“The concert closed with a joint performance of ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven Nine,” Erichsen says. “It was such an honor. I have the concert poster framed in my kitchen."




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