Performer, composer, arranger, educator and arts administrator Dan Thomas has received countless performance awards, and has performed and recorded with some of the most influential jazz artists and pedagogues in nearly every state in the continental US, Canada, and abroad. Thomas emigrated from his native Canada to the United States in 1993.
Thomas currently serves as the executive director of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. The band holds post at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Prior to his current appointment he served as the co-chair of the Jazz Studies Program at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance with Bobby Watson. Thomas was the chief architect of a new model for jazz education which garnered national attention for the program and he led a team of Kansas City Jazz royalty. Under Thomas’ leadership the program grew immensely in both quality, number and in annual giving. He taught and directed the 11 O’Clock Jazz band. Among the many accolades the band performed at the 2012 Jazz Education Network convention and was acknowledged for outstanding performance as well as being selected to perform for the Missouri Music Educator’s Association’s 78th Annual In-Service Workshop/Conference. Thomas’ contributions to education have been recognized with inductions in to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers (3 times) as well as being awarded the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Excellence in Teaching Award (2017), given to one Conservatory faculty member, and twice recognized by the Missouri Music Educator’s Association.
Thomas’ students perform around the world and teach at the highest levels. His students have appeared many times at the Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program, Jazz Port Townsend workshops, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and JEN. Students have been recognized in numerous jazz competitions and received many awards, notably in Downbeat, by Thelonious Monk, MTNA, Yamaha, ITG, Nafme, Music for All, Grammy, Bard Summer Jazz Academy (JALCO) and the Vandoren jazz saxophone competition, among other.
Former student and assistant professor of saxophone at the University of Memphis says, “Dan, in addition to being a killer player, is a dedicated pedagogue who breaks down and demystifies the nuts and bolts of improvisation in a way that no other teacher I encountered in my collegiate study could.”
In addition to his long tenure with UMKC, Thomas has taught in Washington, Missouri, and Kansas public schools, and at Kansas City’s Penn Valley Community College and Rockhurst University. He presents master classes, workshops, and performs at high school and university jazz festivals as a featured guest artist around the world.
Thomas’ CDs, City Scope, Musical Sanctuary and Voyage continue to receive critical acclaim, and acknowledgement on the national airplay charts. His quintet recording featuring Bobby Watson, Curtis Lundy and Voyage is available for immediate release. Vice president for education and curriculum development at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz describes Thomas as “eminent, experienced and effective.”
Thomas holds performing artist/educator endorsements with Yamaha, Vandoren, Locoparasaxo, WeWOOD and Roo Pads.