The Mississippi Jazz Foundation will honor and recognize Jackson State University professor of music Russell Thomas Jr. during its sixth annual holiday jazz concert, “A Night of Musical Artistry,” at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Alamo Theater on the historic Farish Street in downtown Jackson.
During the concert, the foundation will honor Thomas’ musical works and will recognize his contributions to music education and the music entertainment industry in Mississippi.
Other honorees include jazz artist and JSU alumnus Cassandra Wilson and former JSU band director the late William Davis.
Thomas, a member of the JSU Department of Music faculty since 1984, is director of jazz education and the coordinator of music theory. He is a Fulbright Scholar and the founder of the “Jazz in the Schools” program, which is dedicated to the teaching of jazz history and jazz improvisation concepts in kindergarten through secondary schools.
Thomas has presented “Jazz in the Schools” residencies for elementary and high schools throughout the United States. He has presented jazz education lectures and seminars at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference, Music Educators National Conference, Southern Arts Exchange Conference, North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, National Black Music Caucus Conference and the “ORFF 100” International Conference on Music and Dance in Melbourne, Australia.
At JSU, Thomas developed the Bachelor of Music Education Degree – Jazz Education Concentration curriculum, and directed and produced nine educational recordings of the Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble Class I. The JSU Jazz Ensemble Class I earned national acclaim by receiving the “Dr. M. E. Hall Award” for being selected as the outstanding jazz ensemble at the University of North Texas 2009 Annual North Texas Jazz Festival.
Thomas’ publications include a musical composition for jazz orchestra, “Blues Grove” (Walrus Music Publications), and a book chapter, “Li’l Darlin’, Neal Paul Hefti,” in the book, “Teaching Music Through Performance In Jazz” (GIA Publications, Inc.). Thomas has received numerous honors and awards including the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Teacher / Scholar Award.