Personality: W. Weldon Hill, Ph.D.

Spotlight on CultureWorks board chair

10/19/2023, 6 p.m.
Jazz pianist and retired educator W. Weldon Hill, Ph.D., believes in freedom of expression through art.

Jazz pianist and retired educator W. Weldon Hill, Ph.D., believes in freedom of expression through art.

“Music is, for me, a release through which I can freely ex- press my innermost thoughts, feelings and convictions,” Dr. Hill said recently in an email. “It allows me to be expressive without boundaries because, as a composer or performer, my thoughts and beliefs can reside in the music.”

Dr. Hill explained that music has helped to shape his and his interactions with the world, whether in his approach to problem solving, writing and other job-related experiences, or in his emotional understanding and empathy for others.

“Music is often attached in some way to just about anything in our world,” he added.

But it is not just music. Art and culture impact lives. Supporting the arts and increasing their impact is something meaningful to Dr. Hill and it is also the mission of Richmond nonprofit CultureWorks.

Founded by John Bryan in 2009, CultureWorks serves the Richmond and Tri-Cities region by promoting greater community participation and regional collaboration, making arts and culture accessible, and increasing the capacity of artists and organizations and their ability to access resources and services.

Actress Daphne Maxwell Reid introduced him to the organization about three years ago. Dr. Hill joined the board, and then became its chair July 1 for a two-year term.

“Richmond, and the region in general, gave me so very much in terms of music, career, relationships and opportunities that I am perhaps duty bound to give back where I can,” Dr. Hill said.

He looks forward to helping CultureWorks expand its reach, but says the biggest challenge will be one many nonprofits are facing – fundraising. He is prepared to put in the work with faith and perseverance. These are qualities he learned from his late parents, Wilbert and Deloris S. Hill.

Dr. Hill says his mother was especially influential to him.

“My mom was a science major, earning degrees from Virginia Union University and The Medical College of Virginia in the 1950s,” he shared. “In addition to possessing tremendous intellect, she also was uniquely perceptive. I believe that I may have inherited some of that!”

His mother also showed him, by example, how to be unflappable in the face of challenges, a methodical student, a lover of life and laughter and a devout Christian. Dr. Hill said he has put such lessons into action through the best and worst of life’s circumstances.

That kind of focus and dedication also will help with his own to-do list. Sitting at the top is completing several recording projects, including the publication of a set of sacred choral pieces.

“The plan is to complete them by end of January 2024 and get the publication done before June 1,” he said. “It’s aggressive, but the project is approximately 80% complete.”

Meet a musician who plays to his own tunes but is supportive of the arts and others, and this week’s Personality, Dr. W. Weldon Hill.

Volunteer position: Board chair, CultureWorks.

Occupation: Retired university professor and administrator.

Date and place of birth: May in Richmond.

Where I live now: Henrico County.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Virginia Union University; master’s in jazz studies, Virginia Commonwealth University; master’s in music, The Catholic University of America; doctor of philosophy musicology, The Catholic University of America.

Family: Deceased parents Deloris S. Hill and Wilbert Hill.

CultureWorks is: A nonprofit arts organization committed to the ongoing development of a vibrant region through empowered artists and arts and culture organizations. We seek to accomplish this through providing grant opportunities, deepening access to communities with barriers, increasing the capacity of small and medium-sized organizations and individual artists, and the promotion of events to the public.

Founder(s): John Bryan.

Mission: To strengthen artists and arts and cultural organizations to increase their impact in our region.

Describe how CultureWorks makes things happen: Bringing persons together in service to cultural equity and diversity via regional meetings, regional arts calendars, access to resources and services that educate and promote artistic and human development, grants and numerous other opportunities.

How I have witnessed art and culture impact lives: This has been the crux of my career in education! I suppose that the most prominent impacts I have seen from art and culture are the ways that endeavors such as study abroad, artists in residence, arts camps, and other public arts events have changed how people regard one another and their communities. Moreover, new communities and highly effective coalitions and opportunities for students have been created.

Why this organization is meaningful to me: Coming together around shared interests, consensus and community-building are extremely important for the arts and culture. These are inextricably bound to the CultureWorks mission and endeavors.

Why I accepted position as board chair: As a native Richmonder, I was honored to assume a role in helping to empower the arts/cultural communities, lifting up the gifts and talents that the region offers in terms of their impact upon education, personal/artistic growth, societal progress, and economic development. Richmond and the region in general gave me so very much in terms of music, career, relationships, and opportunities that I am perhaps duty-bound to give back where I can.

No. 1 goal or project: Expanding arts and cultural opportunities and equity for the communities we serve.

Strategy for achieving goals:

Ongoing personal communication with the communities we serve; the proliferation of arts/ cultural showcases across the region; building a sustainable fiscal foundation to benefit those we serve.

Culture and Richmond: Richmond’s astonishing culture spans its role as the Capital of the Confederacy, primarily characterized by its antebellum commitment to the enslavement of Africans, to our current third-millennium status in which we now experience and appreciate the free expression for which countless numbers of our ancestors perished, often as the result of unadulterated hatred.

Upcoming events: artoberVA is a monthlong celebration of arts and culture in Richmond and the Tri-Cities! During October, artoberVA promotes over 1,000 experiences from over 100 participating artists and arts & culture organizations including music, dance, theatre, visual art, museums and more! The full itinerary is available at

http://calendar.richmondcultureworks.org/calendar/day/20 23/10/1?days=31&experience= &order=date

How I start the day: Meditatively thankful for another sunrise and the things that I can do or not do, especially since I retired.

The three words that best describe me: Affable, observant, discerning.

If I had 10 extra minutes in the day: I would spend the time practicing.

Best late-night snack: Tuna/chicken salad with crackers.

The music I listen to most is: Jazz — creative improvisational music.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love reading about, and doing research on U.S. history in the 1950s and 1960s— particularly the political assassinations, their perpetrators, profound impact and meaning for us today.

A quote that inspires me: I actually have two: “If you are not at the table, you will likely be on the menu.” — Anonymous; “A good leader comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comforted.”— John Wesley.

At the top of my “to-do” list: Finish some recording projects and compositions I have begun.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: How to adapt to and overcome circumstances through faith and perseverance despite the naysayers and opponents.

Book that influenced me the most: “Fourth and One” by Joe Gibbs. Joe Gibbs is the legendary NFL Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Commanders who is a devout, selfless man of faith, leader, father, husband, mentor and servant to those he led. I am most influenced by his leadership style. His priority was knowing everything about his players such that he won three Super Bowls with different quarterbacks, adapting his style to what the players did well.

What I’m reading now: “The Will to Swing” by Oscar Peterson. My takeaway is that the essence of the music we call jazz (in its purist sense) is swing and its origins found in the earliest music of Africans brought to the then-new world as slaves. Accordingly, there is a very sacred nature to it when- and wherever it is performed for those of us who understand this. I keep that in mind through all of my own performing.