EDUCATOR, ARRANGER & AWARD-WINNING COMPOSER
Described as "elegant, beautiful, sophisticated, intense, and crystal clear in emotional intent," the music of Omar Thomas continues to move listeners everywhere it is performed. Born to Guyanese parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1984, Omar moved to Boston in 2006 to pursue a Master of Music in Jazz Composition at the New England Conservatory of Music. He is the protégé of lauded composers and educators Ken Schaphorst and Frank Carlberg, and has studied under multiple Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider.
Hailed by Herbie Hancock as showing "great promise as a new voice in the further development of jazz in the future," educator, arranger, and award-winning composer Omar Thomas has created music extensively in the contemporary jazz ensemble idiom. It was while completing his Master of Music Degree that he was appointed the position of Assistant Professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music at the surprisingly young age of 23. He was awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award in 2008, and invited by the ASCAP Association to perform his music in their highly exclusive JaZzCap Showcase, held in New York City. In 2012, Omar was named the Boston Music Award's "Jazz Artist of the Year.”
Omar's music has been performed in concert halls across the country. He has been commissioned to create works in both jazz and classical styles. His work has been performed by such diverse groups as the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the San Francisco and Boston Gay Mens' Choruses, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Omar has had a number of celebrated singers perform over his arrangements, including Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nona Hendryx, BeBe Winans, Kenny Lattimore, Marsha Ambrosius, Sheila E., Raul Midon, Leela James, Dionne Warwick, and Chaka Khan. His work is featured on Dianne Reeves's Grammy Award-winning album, "Beautiful Life."
Omar's first album, "I AM," debuted at #1 on iTunes Jazz Charts and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums Chart. His second release, " We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rigths Piece in Four Movements," has been hailed by Grammy Award-wining drummer, composer, and producer Terri Lyne Carrington as being a "thought provoking, multi-layered masterpiece" which has "put him in the esteemed category of great artists." "We Will Know" was nominated for four OUTMusic Awards, including "Album of the Year." For this work, Omar was named the 2014 Lavender Rhino Award recipient by The History Project, acknowledging his work as an up-and-coming activist in the Boston LGBTQ community. Says Terri Lyne: "Omar Thomas will prove to be one of the more important composer/arrangers of his time."
Omar Thomas Large Ensemble
The Omar Thomas Large Ensemble is comprised of Boston's best up-and-coming young talent. The group was first assembled for Omar's graduate composition recital at the New England Conservatory of Music in the spring of 2008. The group was composed entirely of NEC students, both graduate and undergraduate. The ensemble and the music were so well received that the group decided to stay together. The Omar Thomas Large Ensemble now performs actively around the city of Boston. A smaller version of the group was featured in the ASCAP association's JaZzcap showcase in New York City in the fall of 2008. While the personnel of the group has changed somewhat over the years, the core of the group remains NEC students, past and present. Other members include Eastman alums, Berklee students and faculty. All members of the group are also working on successful solo careers, featuring impressive albums, critical acclaim both locally and abroad, and Grammy nominations.
Omar Thomas Large Ensemble are:
REEDS — Mark Zaleski, Chris Veilleux, Jon Bean, Tucker Antell and Ben Whiting
TRUMPETS — Casey Brefka, Peter Kenagy, Jenn Allen Zevos and Arnetta Johnson
TROMBONES — Clayton DeWalt, Timothy James Lienhard III, Grant Randall and Chris Beaudry
RHYTHM — Mark Cocheo, Alex Brown, Zach Brown, Mark Walker and Ernesto Diaz
COMPOSER & CONDUCTOR — Omar Thomas
Omar has lectured both domestically and internationally, speaking at Harvard University and giving masterclasses in Europe. He was also featured on the "Hot and Cool: 40 Years of Jazz at NEC" panel alongside Hankus Netsky, Cecil McBee, John McNeil, program chair Ken Schaphorst, and program founder Gunther Schuller, mediated by Bob Blumenthal.
Omar is currently a member of both the Harmony and Music Education departments at Berklee, where he teaches all four levels of Harmony offered, in addition to taking charge of the "Introduction to Music Education" course. Omar is an active member of the Berklee community, serving on the Diversity and Inclusion Council, the Comprehensive Enrollment Strategy Workgroup, and acting as co-chair of the LGBT Allies. Omar was nominated for the Distinguished Faculty Award after only three years at the college, and has thrice been awarded the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from Harvard University, where he served as a Teaching Fellow for four years.
In addition to formal academic instruction, Omar also offers private instruction in composition. If you are interested in scheduling a lecture, masterclass, or a private instruction in composition, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
News & Updates
2.20.16 World Premiere: "Of Our New Day Begun" - CBDNA Southern Division Conference @ The Gaillard Center, 3:30pm. WKU Wind Ensemble led by Dr. Gary Schallert
9.26.15 Beantown Jazz Festival “Jazz: The Voice of the People."
2.10.16 The WKU Herald covers the premiere of "Of Our New Day Begun," a commission to honor Mother Emanuel AME and the Charleston Nine.
5.22.14 Boston Globe review of "We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece in Four Movements."
4.4.14 Huffington Post interview: "Civil Rights Protest Song 'We Shall Overcome' Inspires 'We Will Know,' a Hymn for the LGBT Community."
5.31.13 Human Rights Campaign Blog: "Boston Composer Writes Piece Reflecting on LGBT Equality Movement."
5.23.13 Boston Globe interview: "Composer Omar Thomas Seeks Harmony."
7.18.13 WBUR interview: "Composing A Jazz Anthem For Gay Rights: Omar Thomas’s ‘We Will Know’."
Honors & Milestones
2.20.16 The world premiere of "Of Our New Day Begun" at The Gaillard Center of Charleston, South Carolina, performed by the WKU Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Gary Schallert at the 2016 CBDNA Southern Division Conference.
1.24.16 "We Will Know" awarded Best CD Cover Artwork and Album of the Year at the 9th OUTMusic Awards.
2.8.15 Dianne Reeve's eighteenth studio album, "Beautiful Life," on which Omar is a featured arranger, is awarded the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
6.12.14 Boston Gay Men's Chorus perform "We Will Know" arrangement as part of their Pride Week concert series entitled, "You Can't Stop the Beat!"
12.17.14 "We Will Know" Nominated for FOUR OUTMusic Awards.
7.26.13 The "We Will Know" EP Fundraiser exceeds it's goal. A portion of all proceeds will benefit the Human Rights Campaign and the fight for LGBT equality.
6.11.12 LGBT civil rights hymn selected as a finalist for inclusion in the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus's Harvey Milk 2013 project.
12.2.12 Omar Thomas Wins a Boston Music Award for "Jazz Artist of the Year."
4.11.11 Featured composer for Composers and Schools in Concert (CSIC), commissioned to compose and workshop a piece for Rio Americano High School of Carmichael, CA.