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 in 1984 to Guyanese parents, 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.
He was appointed to the position of Assistant Professor of Harmony at the world renowned Berklee College of Music at the surprisingly young age of 23. Omar was nominated for the Distinguished Faculty Award after only three years at the college, and has twice been awarded the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from Harvard University, where he serves as a Teaching Fellow. He has been awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award in 2008, and was invited by the ASCAP Association to perform his music in their highly exclusive JaZzCap Showcase, held in New York City. In 2012, Omar was awarded 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 University of Georgia Graduate Tuba Ensemble, the 500-member James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, 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., Leela James, Dionne Warwick, and Chaka Khan. His work is featured on Dianne Reeves’s Grammy Award-winning album, “Beautiful Life.”
Comprised of the best of the best of Boston’s up-and-coming young jazz musicians, 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, multilayered masterpiece” which has “put him in the esteemed category of great artists.” Says Terri Lyne: “Omar Thomas will prove to be one of the more important composer/arrangers of his time.”