New Faculty Hire Q&A: Omar Thomas, Assistant Professor, Composition

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Tell us about the classes you’ll be teaching this year.

Omar Thomas Assistant Professor, Composition

Omar Thomas
Assistant Professor, Composition

This coming year, in addition to individual instruction, I will be teaching courses called Jazz Harmony in Practice and The Post-Genre Era. The former is designed to give musicians from all musical backgrounds exposure to and a level of agency over the harmony found in jazz and popular music of the 20th/21st century. The latter is an examination of music created in an increasingly connected world that transcends specific genre constraints. We will observe the many ways different genre influences can combine to create something new and apply what we observe to the creation of our own music.

What attracted you to Butler School of Music and The University of Texas at Austin?

In my two residency experiences at Butler School of Music, I was quite impressed by the balance struck between community and excellence, where the former seemed to inspire the latter. What this revealed is that the high level of achievement and success that comes from BSOM is rooted in openness, connection and support. This is an environment in which I longed to be a part. In addition, it’s a great honor to be once again affiliated with a largely-populated institution—students and faculty alike inspiring one another to find and explore human truths in service to a more equitable world.

I understand your research/creative work focuses on jazz composition. Can you tell us more about how your professional pathway led to this focus?

My affinity for composition can be traced back to middle school. This passion grew as I pursued my B.M. in Music Education at James Madison University, which led to my decision to purse a M.M. in Jazz Composition from the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. I was able to focus and employ my love of writing in and around this language as a harmony professor at Berklee College of Music for 10 years, where I also taught jazz composition and big band writing and score analysis.

What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?

One of my greatest motivators as a musician and music educator is deconstructing the walls academia has erected and fortified between classical and jazz, and shining a light on the many commonalities the two share in service to a more unified experience, a more comprehensive narrative and a deeper respect between the two languages.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not teaching/researching/working?

In the Old World, I very much enjoyed international travel. Who knows when again we’ll be able to indulge in such joys.

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