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Internationally known jazz pianist, composer, and arranger Bob Thompson (born December 12, 1942 in Jamaica, Queens, New York) is the house pianist and a featured performer on National Public Radio’s syndicated Mountain Stage program, which is broadcast live from the West Virginia Culture Center Theater in Charleston.

Thompson grew up in New York City, but came to West Virginia in the 1960s to study music at West Virginia State College (now University), and thereafter decided to stay.

Though today a renowned jazz pianist, as a youth in junior high school Thompson was ambivalent toward the piano, and resisted his mother’s suggestion that he take lessons during the summer. He turned instead to his preferred instrument at the time, the trumpet.

Arriving at West Virginia State to study trumpet and music education, Thompson was eager to join the college’s jazz band, but was disappointed to learn the group already had an accomplished trumpet player. To join the band, Thompson switched back to piano and quickly developed an affinity for the keyboard.

Since the 1970s, Thompson and his bands have recorded and released multiple CDs, and toured nationally and internationally, performing gigs in Europe, Africa and South America. Throughout the 1980s Thompson released a series of widely acclaimed solo albums, first through his own label, Rainbow Records, and later on Capitol’s Intima jazz label.

Thompson is co-producer and host of the annual “Joy to The World” holiday jazz show that airs on public radio stations across the nation, and is heard internationally on Voice of America. In 2015, in recognition of Thompson’s contributions to the Mountain State music scene and beyond, he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

When not performing on Mountain Stage or touring, Thompson continues to perform in clubs in Charleston for smaller, more intimate audiences.

This Article was written by Ben Calwell

Last Revised on May 14, 2020


Cite This Article

Calwell, Ben "Bob Thompson." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 May 2020. Web. 11 August 2020.

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