JSU music professor receives Mississippi Jazz Foundation Award


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.

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11 thoughts on “JSU music professor receives Mississippi Jazz Foundation Award

  1. Congratulations and best wishes to you Russell!! Glad to have a good friend like you. You’ve worked diligently over the years and it shows with that super jazz band and ensemble. I always speak of you when I talk to my jazz-loving friends. We often listen to your music on CD as well as the Jazz Music channels on TV and I’m hoping that you will soon be included in that line-up of jazz greats! See you soon on the yard!

  2. Dr. Thomas is an outstanding music educator. My jazz students are still talking about the jazz workshop he presented at Washington – Lee HS in Arlington, Virginia.

    Alex Robinson

  3. A most deserving honor for a giant in the music Education Jazz area and a great saxophonist. Congratulation to my colleagues, Friend and little brother.

  4. He was hard on us as music majors playing the instrument that he loved but it was worth every minute. Congratulations Dr. Thomas and thank you for everything

  5. Great! Dr. Thomas, you earned this award and many more. In time you will receive all of the other earned honors which have not been highlighted in the press. But, for now, I am happy and proud to see you acknowledged by your colleagues who understand and teach music.

    May God continue to Bless you for all that you do to strengthen people, especially Black people, through music.

  6. I do not know of any contemporary (musician/educaror) who has done more with so few resources. He has consistently out performed on and off stage his fellows.His orchestras number one placement topping Divsion I opponents is extraordinary.Russell is a champion! His achievements recounted have no causal relationship with his professional surroudings.He has consistently achieved inspite of his professional milieu.Russell that quality is heroic.Congratulations from the Dr’s Britton

  7. Fabulous, Is an under statement for the time and dedication that Dr. Russell Thomas Jr. (Russell) has put into his art! Russell and I go way back…as in, I remember when we were picking peas and corn from a field in Heidelberg, MS. Even back then Russell knew he was a musician. He was our Pied Piper, a true leader, mentor and philosopher. Many of us are the beneficiary of his wisdom and direction.

    Dr. Thomas please continue to lay those foot prints, as we continue to follow.

    Keep Jazz Alive…My Brother!

  8. Outstanding, Doc! Love your jazz… JSU students and faculty are truly blessed to have you as such an accomplished musician, educator, mentor and friend. The world is a much better place whenever there is good music to be heard.

    Jazz lives!

  9. Russell is not only a fantastic musician, he is a gentleman. Russell performed with a small jazz group at my bar in Rio de Janeiro and was stunning!…. The audience loved him as did the fellow musicians. Russell is a treat to have around and with more people like Russell, the world would be a better place….
    Hurry back to Rio Russell,,,,, we miss you!!!

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