Omar Thomas is an assistant professor of composition at The University of Texas at Austin, Butler School of Music. He is helping educators rethink the way that they can build non-exclusionary curricula.
Feet firmly planted in the multiple worlds of music, Thomas is a leading voice in the belief that genres like classical and jazz aren't actually so different. Seeking to provide access to different genres and stimulate open-mindedness within the classroom, he works with colleagues to direct progressive curriculum changes and increase communication between students and educators.
Encouraging students to be "small in their greatness and great in their smallness," Thomas has an honest, modern view on composition and musical growth. He inspires students and educators alike to test boundaries, supported by a belief that people are naturally going to stumble at times when they're pioneers. While being hailed by Herbie Hancock as showing "great promise as a new voice in the further development of jazz in the future," what greatly appeals to Thomas' students and colleagues is that he understands how the musical concepts rooted in jazz or classical translate to other genres, and he strives to display musical diversity in his teaching.
Inspired by Nina Simone, Thomas believes that the mission of artists is to reflect the times and situations in which they find themselves, and he instills this value in his students and colleagues. He proudly wears his heart on his sleeve, encouraging students to bare their soul to the world through their music, understanding that the audience responds to authenticity and vulnerability.
"We're encoding the stories of the past and the present so that we can have a clear and honest picture of who we've been, what we're building upon, and where we're going creatively — which is a reflection of our society. Lean into the music of the world you're living in," Thomas says.
Thomas is a passionate and engaging guest conductor, lecturer, clinician or artist-in-residence for any program.