Multicultural Welcoming Concert: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece in Four Movements

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Thursday / September 4, 2014 / 7:00 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue
United States

We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rights Piece in Four Movements is Omar Thomas's artistic reflection on his life and, he says, "on an issue very close to my heart as both a black and gay artist."

The beauty and madness of this work is that it is a composition based on juxtaposition, promoting a social movement written in a genre (jazz) pioneered by a group that historically has an aversion to the group for which the piece is created, Thomas says. Though it is written in solidarity with the LGBT movement, it is anchored by styles and songs created by and for the African-American experience. LGBT civil rights are at the forefront of contemporary social and political discourse. The power of music to serve, inspire, and archive movements is a necessary part of that conversation.

Born to Guyanese parents in Brooklyn, New York, Thomas created his first jazz composition at the age of 16. He later obtained a master of music in jazz composition at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2006, and was appointed the assistant professor of harmony at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music at the impressively young age of 23. With undeniable musical talent and an impressive roster of accolades, particularly for such a young composer, it should come as no surprise that Thomas is the protégé of lauded composers and educators Ken Schaphorst and Frank Carlberg, or that he studied under multiple Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider.

In 2012, Thomas was named the Jazz Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards for the Omar Thomas Large Ensemble's debut album, I Am. He’s since been commissioned to create music across genres for diverse ensembles as the Harvard Jazz Ensemble and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, among others, and has worked with a great breadth of prominent artists, including Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kenny Lattimore, Marsha Ambrosious, BeBe Winans, Sheila E., Stephanie Mills, and Yolanda Adams. In addition to teaching at Berklee, Thomas also currently teaches jazz harmony at Harvard. He is an active member of the Berklee community, serving on the Diversity and Inclusion Council and acting as co-chair of the LGBT Allies faculty group.