Biographical / Historical
Andrew Thomas (b. 1939) is an American composer recognized for his works for marimba, his relationship with Chinese musical culture, and his cultivation of embodiment and theatricality in his works. Although trained to write atonal and 12-tone music, his mature musical language is described as expansive, encompassing chromaticism and dissonance while maintaining tonal grounding. Thomas is influenced by world music cultures, poems and literary fragments, as well as something he terms "body awareness." His composition teachers included Karel Husa, Nadia Boulanger, Burrill Phillips, Otto Luening, Luciano Berio, and Elliott Carter. Among his most notable pieces are those written for marimba including Merlin, Three Transformations, The Great Spangled Fritillary, and a concerto, Loving Mad Tom. Several other works were inspired by Thomas's close study of world culture, especially his interest in the far east. During the early 2000s Thomas participated in an exchange with the Guangxi Arts College in Nanning, China. There he performed, coached, and taught. One result of the visits to China was a collaboration with Thoma's spouse, Howard Kessler on a ballet, Focus of the Heart, scored for full traditional Chinese Orchestra and full Western symphony orchestra.
Thomas has spent most of his career at Julliard, where he earned M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in composition. He remained at the institution to teach in the pre-college division, where he served as chairman of the composition department from 1969 to 1994 and as director of the pre-college division from 1994 to 2006. Now retired, he continues to hold the title "Director Emeritus" at Julliard. He currently lives in New York, although he travels around the world to teach and present his music. Thomas was elected to membership in the American Composers Alliance in 1975, and remains an active member of the organization as of 2019.