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February 07, 2022

By Rebecca Mohr, Capital University Communications Manager

Pushing Past Musical Genre Expectations with Omar Thomas

Authenticity drives the distinct, yet recognizable jazz and band compositions created by Omar Thomas. A first-generation American born to Guyanese parents, Thomas draws upon his talents and life experiences to create groundbreaking compositions for the 21st century.

Starting on February 15, Capital University will welcome Thomas to campus for a weeklong residency as part of the 2022 NOW MUSIC Festival. Thomas’ residency will include a keynote address, a series of concerts of the band, jazz, chamber, and solo repertoire, performed by the faculty, students, and other local musicians and ensembles, and a masterclass with students-composers.

“There’s a lot of mysticism around my music, but this is just who I am, this is what I know and, therefore, this is why I do,” said Thomas. “It’s really just a matter of authenticity and having the space to explore authentically. Giving myself permission every time I sit down to write something to be authentic about it.”

A dedicated composer, arranger, and educator, Thomas always looks forward to time with students and the opportunity to learn from the next generation. A current assistant professor of composition at the Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin, Thomas travels the world to meet with excited learners.

“I decided to be a music educator because music was what gave me a sense of community, a sense of self, a sense of discipline,” said Thomas. “It gave me an opportunity to develop as a leader. I’ve always had a deep connection to music, so it all seemed to fit really well.”

Thomas hopes to continue to grow and form a sense of community with Capital students.

“I define success for my students as curiosity. If they leave curious and with more questions than they had going in, I think that’s a mark that they want to go deeper into their musical knowledge,” said Thomas.  “I just really want to talk about where we’re going as a field and how we can use our students to help guide us and help shape what it is they will need to be. What it means for them to be a successful musician in 2022 and beyond does and should look very different from what it meant for us to be successful in our field 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Everything is evolving so quickly.”

Thomas’ talent connects with listeners of all ages, and thanks to the Conservatory of Music leadership, students have the opportunity to work directly with him.

“Omar is an award-winning band and jazz composer, and he really reaches students at a really deep level. He has a very unique compositional voice,” said Tony Zilincik, M.M., associate professor of music. “He just recently won some pretty big awards with his band music, including one of the pieces that our student group is going to play.”

Thomas’ music pushes past the boundaries of genre, and the 2022 NOW MUSIC Festival hopes to follow suit.

The Conservatory of Music students worked together with the Schumacher Gallery and Music Technology faculty and students to create the first immersive exhibit on campus. The Kandinsky Sketchbook exhibit features sketches from Wassily Kandinsky, accompanied by electronic music by Capital student composers.

“We like a multidisciplinary approach to our events,” said Dina Lentsner, Ph.D., professor of music theory and composition. “Art creates different performance space for music. With this exhibit, people can create their own artistic experience.”

For more information on the Conservatory of Music at Capital, go to

To learn more about Omar Thomas, go to

To learn more about the 2022 NOW MUSIC Festival, go to