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 in Brooklyn, New York, to Guyanese parents, Thomas received his Bachelor of Music in music education from James Madison University and his Master of Music in jazz composition at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2008. 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. Thomas currently serves as an associate professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music and as assistant professor in music theory at the Peabody Conservatory. He has thrice been awarded the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from Harvard University, where he served as a Teaching Fellow for four years. He was awarded the Boston Music Awards’ “Jazz Artist of the Year” in 2012, and in 2017, Thomas was selected from an international pool of applicants to be an artist-in-residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.
Thomas’ music has been performed in concert halls and on stages across the country and internationally. He has had a number of celebrated singers perform his arrangements, including Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nona Hendryx, BeBe Winans, Kenny Lattimore, Marsha Ambrosius, Sheila E., Leela James, Dionne Warwick, and Chaka Khan. His work is featured on Dianne Reeves’s Grammy Award-winning album, Beautiful Life. Thomas currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Jazz Composers and Arrangers (ISJAC).
Comprised of the best of the best of Boston’s jazz scene, the 18-piece Omar Thomas Large Ensemble was formed in 2008. The group’s first album, I Am, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums Chart. Their second release, We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece In Four Movements, has been hailed by Grammy Award-winning 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.” Says Carrington: “Omar Thomas will prove to be one of the more important composer/arrangers of his time.”