Professor and Head of Jazz Studies
Reginald "Reggie" Thomas is coordinator of the internationally recognized Northern Illinois University School of Music's Jazz Studies program. He is the director of the acclaimed NIU Jazz Orchestra (formerly known as the NIU Jazz Ensemble under esteemed Professor Ronald Carter), which has been featured at venues such as the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Thomas came to NIU from the Michigan State University College of Music, where he served as professor of jazz piano. Prior to his position at MSU, he was professor of music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and was SIUE's director of Black Studies. Reggie has performed at festivals around the world – St. Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal, West Africa; The Montreal International Jazz Festival; and The Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia.
After leaving the St. Louis area, he also spent three years as pianist for the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra with whom he performed at a festival before the King of Thailand. Thomas has performed abroad in Brisbane, Calgary, London, Milan, Montreal, Poznan, Senegal, Sydney, Toronto, Trinidad and Warsaw. He has also performed across the U.S. in cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
As a recording artist Thomas has appeared as a leader or co-leader on four recordings. The most recent, Matters of the Heart (with wife Mardra), was released March 2015 and follows previous recordings Fade to Blue (MaxJazz), Standard Time (Victoria) and 4 (Jazz Compass). Recordings as a sideman include Clay Jenkins’ Yellow Flowers After (Chase Music Group) and Azure Eyes (Chase Music Group), Kim Richmond’s Ballads (Chase Music Group) and Inner Spirit (Jazz Compass), Clark Terry/Mike Vax’ Creepin’ With Clark (Summit) and the MSU Professors of Jazz Better Than Alright.
Reggie remains active with some of the top institutions in jazz and music education including recent travel to South Africa to serve as a juror for the 14th Unisa International Piano Competition 2020. Since 2018 he has served as the ensemble coach for NYO Jazz Orchestra, a national youth jazz orchestra created by The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall and teaches for their Summer Music Educators Workshops. From 2004-2016, he served as a clinician and education consultant for Jazz at Lincoln Center, working with the Essentially Ellington Program and Band Director Academy. Since 2011 he has worked with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz (formerly the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz) serving as accompanist for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competitions.
He has recently returned from performances at The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts accompanying the 2019 Herbie Hancock International Jazz Guitar Competition.
Thomas has directed All State Jazz Bands, Combos and Jazz Choirs in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, South Dakota and Tennessee and directed the first ever Missouri All-College Jazz Band. He has served on summer jazz faculties across the country and abroad including the IAJE Teacher Training Institute, the Birch Creek Music Center, the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz Camp, the Summer Jazz Academy in Chodziez, Poland, the Barbican Center in London and the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Reggie has been awarded the Excellence in the Arts award from the Greater St. Louis Arts and Education Council (2005) and was named in Riverfront Times "Best of St. Louis" as Best Jazz Artist (2005).
Reggie Thomas earned his M.M. in music education from SIUE and a B.A. in music education from Western Illinois University.