UNCSA welcomes acclaimed jazz composer Omar Thomas as artist-in-residence

UNCSA welcomes acclaimed jazz composer Omar Thomas as artist-in-residence

The School of Music at UNCSA presents the UNCSA Wind Ensemble, in partnership with the Piedmont Wind Symphony, performing a joint concert featuring
the works of internationally acclaimed jazz composer and musician Omar Thomas on Friday,
Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stevens Center. The ensembles will be conducted by music
director and Music faculty member Mark Norman.

Tickets are $20 regular, $15 for students with valid IDs at http://www.uncsa.edu/performances or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945.

The UNCSA Wind Ensemble and the Piedmont Wind Symphony will perform several of Thomas’
pieces including “A Mother of a Revolution,” “The Low-Down Brown Get-Down,” “Come
Sunday” and “Shenandoah.” Thomas will be introducing his pieces and speaking throughout
the concert.

Omar Thomas

The concert will also feature Jeff Scott’s “Baile si quiere!” featuring the UNCSA
Faculty Winds; John Mackey’s “Songs from the End of the World,” featuring soprano
Lindsay Kesselman and the Piedmont Wind Symphony; and Chen Yi’s “Energetically” from “Dragon
Rhyme” with the UNCSA Wind Ensemble. Conducting graduate student Tim Heath will serve
as guest conductor.

Mark Norman, the School of Music’s director of instrumental ensembles who also serves
as the music director of the Piedmont Wind Symphony, says bringing in renowned talent
like Thomas is crucial for students.

Mark Norman

“It’s a complete honor that we are hosting perhaps one of the most sought-after and
influential composers of this generation, certainly his generation,” said Norman.
“It’s a thrill for us to have him on campus working with our students, working with
our community, and our professional musicians within the community. We’re very excited
and the students are excited.”

During his residency at UNCSA, Thomas will also rehearse his pieces with students
and serve as a guest lecturer for the composition seminar and performance hour.

Thomas’ work to be performed during the concert highlights the era of blaxploitation
films during the early ’70s. This genre of filmmaking placed Black actors in lead
roles, was aimed at African American audiences and was controversial for stereotyping
characters. “Despite the backlash studios received, the films possessed an exciting,
raw, soulful quality, and from these films were born some of the most iconic characters
and soundtracks ever created,” Thomas said. “The Low-Down Brown Get-Down” pulls from
various sounds and styles of African American folk music including funk, R&B, soul,
early hip-hop and the blues, he added.

“I’m thrilled to work with Mark Norman and UNC School of the Arts,” said Thomas. “With
the excellent musicianship of UNCSA’s students and the gracious leadership of Mark,
I think we will create a memorable and funky performance.”

UNCSA Faculty Winds

The UNCSA Faculty Winds includes Music faculty members Tadeu Coelho, flute; Jaren
Atherholt, oboe; Ronald Rudkin, clarinet; Maria Serkin, horn; Stephanie Patterson,
bassoon; and Chris Reichmeier, bongos.

About Omar Thomas

A Brooklyn native of Guyanese descent, Omar Thomas has been commissioned to create
both jazz and classical style work with his music performed in concert halls around
the globe. His work has been performed by such diverse groups as the Eastman New Jazz
Ensemble, the San Francisco and Boston Gay Men’s Choruses, The United States Marine
Band, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the Showa
Wind Symphony, in addition to several of the country’s top collegiate music ensembles.
In 2019, Thomas was awarded the National Bandmasters Association/Revelli Award for
his wind composition “Come Sunday,” becoming the first Black composer awarded the
honor in the contest’s 42-year history. He is now a Yamaha master educator whose first
album “I AM” debuted at No. 1 on iTunes Jazz Charts and peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard
Traditional Jazz Albums Chart.

About Lindsay Kesselman

Lindsay Kesselman, Soprano Soloist

Lindsay Kesselman is a two-time Grammy-nominated soprano who passionately advocates
for contemporary music. She has been featured in “Energy in All Directions” by Kenneth
Frazelle with Sandbox Percussion at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the role
of Anna in Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” with the Charlotte Symphony, “Astronautica:
Voices of Women in Space” with Voices of Ascension and more. Kesselman has been the
resident soprano of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble for 10 seasons and Haven, Kesselman’s
trio with Kimberly Cole Luevano and Midori Koga, which actively commissions and tours
throughout North America. Kesselman holds degrees in voice performance and music education
from Rice University and Michigan State University.

About the UNCSA Wind Ensemble

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts Wind Ensemble combines selected
talented high school, undergraduate and graduate students to perform a variety of
classic literature and modern wind band repertoire. All sections rotate to individual
part assignments that are personalized for each student by the applied faculty and

Throughout its history, the wind ensemble has enabled students to work with world-class
soloists and composers and has participated in numerous new music commissioning projects
leading to world and regional premieres. Many former members now perform with professional
orchestras, military bands and chamber ensembles around the world.

About the Piedmont Wind Symphony 

Founded in 1989, the Piedmont Wind Symphony (PWS) consists of the finest professional
musicians in the Piedmont-Triad area of North Carolina. Known for their energetic
and innovative programming, PWS consistently brings headlining performers such as
Ben Folds, Al Jarreau, The Capitol Bones, Demondrae Thurman and Arturo Sandoval to
its audiences. Thousands of concertgoers enjoy PWS performances and its Piedmont Pops
concerts each year. Serving as a leading ambassador for N.C. bands, PWS frequently
works with today’s composers and music educators in producing recordings and providing
inspiration to band participants of all ages. 

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