Loñieta Aurora Thompson Cornwall  

1944 -


Loñieta Aurora Thompson Cornwall, a multi-talented musician, is a pianist, organist, choral director, liturgist, and an arranger/composer. She currently teaches at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she is an Associate Professor who is Director of Choral Studies and teaches classes in theory, conducting, and piano, a position she has held since 1984. She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor of Worship and Liturgy at the Shaw Divinity School since 2008, where she lectures about issues related to worship order and the role of music in that setting.

Loñieta was born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in the Bronx, New York, the oldest child and only daughter of Wilmore and Hattie Stewart Thompson. Both she and her brother Marcus Aurelius were musically gifted children who would receive excellent training and have pursued successful careers in music.

After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music with a B.Mus. in theory and composition and an M.Mus. in music education, both in 1966, she taught music in New York City for four years. During that time she was organist at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York from 1965 to1968; Director of Music at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hollis/Queens, New York, from 1970 to 1975; and organist at the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Harlem.

Cornwall completed a Master of Sacred Music at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in 1973 and a doctorate in College Teaching of Music at Columbia University in 2006.  Her dissertation was titled The African American Art Song: A Continuum in the Art of Song.  

After moving to North Carolina, she was Minister of Music at the First Baptist Church in Raleigh from 1981 to 1995, and organist at the Christian Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh from 1999 to 2001. She has been Director of Music at the First Reformed Church in Cary since 2001 while also serving as Minister of Music and Liturgy at the Franklinton SDA church. 

Cornwall is enjoying a distinguished career at SU, the first historic black university in the South (1865), where she conducts the Shaw University Choir, formerly known as the Chorale Society, which performs at all major school convocations, special campus events, and some religious services in the Thomas J. Boyd Chapel. The choir, which most often features the African American musical heritage, often sings with the North Carolina Symphony, in area churches and at community events. It has traveled extensively in the U.S. and also in the Bahamas.  They traveled to Prague and Budapest in 2008.

Cornwall is a frequent guest lecturer, clinician, and facilitator on the topics of Music in the Black Church and Useful Keyboard Skills for the Protestant Worship Service. She has worked closely with Dr. Marilyn Thompson in research presentations featuring African American music. In 2007 they presented concerts with Thompson singing and Cornwall accompanying at SU and the African American Art Song Conference at the University of California, Irvine.  The latter was an historic event, the first African American Art song conference held to celebrate that genre.

Cornwall has received numerous awards, most recently being chosen to receive The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 2012, the highest honor a North Carolina Governor can bestow upon a state resident.  It is given to those who have a record of excellence in the state of North Carolina, contribute to the community, show outstanding career efforts, and have served their organizations for many years.

In 1999 Cornwall was awarded the Crystal Award by the Women’s Commission and South Atlantic Conference of Ministries of Seventh-day Adventists.  In 2002 she received the Lamplighter Music Outreach Award from the Raleigh-Fuquay FM station WNNL and was also inducted into the Alpha Chi Honor Society. From 2003 to 2011 she was listed in the International Who’s Who Historical Society (2003), Who’s Who in America (2005-2011), and Who’s Who in Education (2005-2011).  In 2014 she received the Emerald Award for excellence in musical performance in the community from the Raleigh North Carolina chapter of Links, Inc.  

She has written and arranged works for solo voice, choir, and organ. Recent compositions include “Entrance Nuptial” and “Let us encourage one another,” a musical score for the Triennial Session of the Reformed Church in America held in the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California.  Both were introduced in 2004.

Cornwall is a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), the National Association of Teachers of singing (NATS), National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. (NANM), and the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music (NASPAAM).

Sources: Shaw University website biography; “Shaw Organist Celebrates Estey Connection at First Baptist Church, cgrotke, Brattleboro.com, 21 June 2007; Praboqk.org biographical data; African American Art Song Alliance, DarrylTaylor.com; Marcus Aurelius Thompson Biography, Adventist Musicians Biographical Resource, 846; email from Loñieta Cornwall, 14 March 2016.