Thomas Edward Sibley, Sr., passed away April 12, 2019, in Winston-Salem, NC.

Born in May 19, 1932 in Albemarle, N.C. to Shelley Henry Sibley and Marion Cobb Smith Sibley, Tom was an older brother to Dan and Ivan. He attended elementary through high school in Albemarle where his talent for music was apparent at an early age. By high school he was playing piano and organ for his church.

Tom studied music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1950-1954. He continued to play for services at local churches throughout his college career. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he served in the US Army from 1954-1956, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany.

While Tom was a student at Carolina he met fellow Tarheel Joan Carol Leonard. Love blossomed, and since Joan’s Army officer father was also stationed in Germany, Tom and Joan were married in Augsburg, Germany, on April 14, 1956.

When they returned to the United States they settled in Chapel Hill so Tom could pursue his Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Musicology. After graduating, Tom was hired as the Supervisor of Music Education for the Hickory City Schools and served as organist/choirmaster for St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

In 1965 the family, including daughter Shawn and son Thomas, Jr., moved to Asheville, where Tom was the Director of Studies for The Asheville School. Two years later Tom accepted a position with the Raleigh Public Schools (which became the Wake County Public Schools) and moved to Cary.  Tom spent most of his 30-year career in education as Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts for the school system. During this time, he also served as the organist/choirmaster of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. He led the church’s music programs for over 20 years, later serving several other churches in the Raleigh/Cary area and always bringing out the best in the choirs he directed.

However, Tom is probably most widely known for establishing and directing the acclaimed Raleigh Boychoir. Upon settling in the Triangle area, Tom worked on a long-time dream and, with assistance from the Raleigh Women’s Club, founded the Boychoir in 1968. The Boychoir would become a labor of love for 40 years. Under his leadership the choir performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, The National Cathedral, and multiple venues throughout Europe. The Choir’s annual “Carols of Christmas” performance has become a yuletide tradition in North Carolina. The Choir has been a positive influence for boys, families, and triangle citizens for 50 years.

Tom was an avid supporter of the arts in the Raleigh area, collaborating with the N.C. Symphony and many other artistic organizations. In 1990 he received the Medal of Arts Award for his extraordinary achievements. December 19, 2008, was proclaimed Thomas E. Sibley Day in Raleigh to recognize Tom’s many contributions to the city, and during that same time Tom was awarded North Carolina’s highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

He was also an active Rotarian, helping organize and lead three separate Rotary clubs in Cary. Tom served as President for each club and was honored with the Paul Harris Fellow Award. In 2017, the Rotary Club of Cary honored Tom as one of the initial recipients of the Dick Ladd Award of Distinguished Service, the highest honor of the Rotary Club of Cary.

During retirement, Tom and Joan lived in Winston-Salem at Arbor Acres Methodist Retirement Community. This allowed them to be closer to their children and grandchildren. And ever the music enthusiast, he was delighted to join Home Moravian Church and enjoy the rich musical heritage of the Moravian Church.

A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at Home Moravian Church on Saturday May 18th at 2 p.m., with burial in Salem Moravian Graveyard to follow. The family will receive visitors after the service in the Home Church parlor. Tom is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan Leonard Sibley; daughter Shawn Williams and husband Joeff; son Tom, Jr. and wife Wendy; granddaughters Grace London and husband Chase, Vaughn Sibley, and Rachel Williams; grandson Lane Sibley; brother Dan Sibley of Tryon, NC, sister-in-law Mary Kathryn Sibley of Thomasville, GA; and cousin Sarah Gamble.

Memorials may be made to:
Raleigh Boychoir, 1329 Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607
Moravian Music Foundation, 457 S. Church St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101


The Raleigh Boychoir Honors the Life of Founder Thomas E. Sibley

The Raleigh Boychoir mourns the passing of our founder, mentor, colleague, and friend, Thomas E. Sibley. Mr. Sibley passed away peacefully on Friday, April 12, at his home in Winston-Salem. Mr. Sibley had lived in Winston-Salem with his wife, Joan, since retiring from the Choir in 2008.

Mr. Sibley founded the Raleigh Boychoir in 1968 to provide boys with unchanged voices the opportunity to learn and perform some of the world’s greatest music. Sibley believed a choir could help boys develop character, discipline, leadership and a commitment to excellence – traits that would serve them for a lifetime. Sibley, who worked as Music Supervisor for the Raleigh and Wake County Public Schools as well as Organist and Choirmaster at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Raleigh, directed the Raleigh Boychoir for 40 years.

After just two short months of rehearsing in the fall of 1968, the Choir’s first 20 choristers presented its inaugural holiday concert in the lobby of the Raleigh City Schools Administrative Offices. Every year since then, the Choir has performed the “Carols of Christmas” concert, which to this day is a popular Yuletide tradition in the capital city.

Touring was a hallmark experience for choristers under Mr. Sibley’s leadership. From its earliest days, Sibley led the Choir across North Carolina, later expanding to national and international tours. Domestic trips included a 1982 performance at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, a solo premiere in New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1996, and seven performances in the White House. White House trips were always special to Mr. Sibley, who admired the acoustics throughout the building. The Choir’s first White House performance in 1981 was especially memorable. “Nancy Reagan came down and greeted the boys and invited the boys to attend a party she was giving in the grand dining room,” Sibley recalled in 1997 as the Choir prepared for another White House visit.

Highlights of European tours included performances in some of the continent’s oldest cathedrals and an audience with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City in 1996. Following the Choir’s 1985 inaugural European tour, one chorister wrote to Mr. Sibley, thanking him “for making our European debut tour possible and perfect,” he said. “Without you as a director, the Raleigh Boychoir would be nothing but a bunch of misbehaving, musically ‘not very coordinated’ young men.”

Mr. Sibley was a 1990 recipient of the Raleigh Medal of Arts and a 2008 inductee in the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (the State’s highest honor), but colleagues and choristers remember him for his devotion, humor, and the example he set.

“I modeled my entire musical and organizational career on my 40 years of association with Mr. Sibley. He was a mentor and guide for my life,“ said Vicki Oehling, a long-time Raleigh Boychoir accompanist, director, and mother of two choristers. “I will always remember his love for the music and the performers when he was often moved to tears in performances.“

“Mr. Sibley shared his love for choral music with many, and now many former choristers have been inspired by his compassionate leadership to pursue music careers,” said Dr. Chris Haire (RBC ’77), a Raleigh Boychoir board member. “As a Triangle-area Minister of Music for over twenty years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share with others the love of choral music and music education that Mr. Sibley generously shared with me.”

“Mr. Sibley was the first model I had for choral music. The many lessons I learned from him I still carry with me to this day, as a conductor, singer, and composer,” said Perry Townsend (RBC ‘79), whose compositions have been premiered by Mr. Sibley and the Boychoir. “Yes, he was strict, we all know that. But he also led us in this rigorous pursuit with good humor, and often with a twinkle in his eye.”

“Mr. Sibley brought out the best in us as young boys,” said Doug Young (RBC ‘71), a Raleigh insurance agency owner and Raleigh Boychoir board member. “I was not a great musician but wanted to perform my best for this man who was so passionate about his music.”

“We loved him dearly,” said Zeke Creech (RBC ‘87), a Raleigh attorney. “He is irreplaceable! His passing would seem to represent the end of an era, though the values he instilled in so many, and his tireless devotion to them and contributions to our community and State, will truly live on for generations to follow.”

“The 2018 Tour Choir and I were grateful for the opportunity to sing for Mr. and Mrs. Sibley last summer, as we kicked off our 50th Anniversary tour across North Carolina in Winston-Salem,” said Jeremy Tucker, Raleigh Boychoir Artistic Director. “As a music educator, Mr. Sibley’s innovative vision to create a safe place for boys to sing transformed the lives of our alumni choristers and will continue to transform the lives of our future choristers. His vision reached far beyond performing the best music. He also created the best leaders and life-long music supporters. These values inspire me every time I walk in the same rehearsal hall he did. Over half a century since his original vision, Mr. Sibley’s legacy is embodied by the music we sing, the lessons we teach, and the audiences we change.”

A Memorial Service to celebrate Mr. Sibley’s life will be held Saturday, May 18th at Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem at 2:00 p.m. The Raleigh Boychoir’s Performing Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble, and Alumni will sing.

*** Wife Joan Sibley passed away on July 23, compounding the sadness for the family. Her obit is here: