Update: Reggie and Mardra Thomas settle in at Michigan State
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2011 - Back in July, we wrote about pianist Reggie Thomas and his wife, vocalist Mardra Thomas, and their upcoming move to Michigan. After spending more than two decades at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a graduate student and faculty member of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Jazz Studies department, Reggie Thomas was moving to a new position at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Both Reggie and Mardra were fixtures on the music scene in the St. Louis area over the past two decades. Thomas led two different bands, in addition to backing Mardra in tributes to the music of Billie Hiliday and other great jazz vocalists. And for many years, Mardra was also a key part of the Sheldon Concert Hall's educational presentation for schools, "The Jazz Story."
The Thomases are now settled in at Michigan State, and Reggie is a member of the faculty jazz band, the Professors of Jazz, which also includes faculty members and internationally known jazz artists Rodney Whitaker and Wes Anderson.
"At the end of August, the Professors of Jazz played a concert to kick off the school year at Michigan State," said Mardra Thomas in a recent phone conversation. "It was Reggie's debut with the group, and I was invited to perform as well."
Mardra and Reggie recently returned from a visit to Hart, Mich., where they performed Mardra's popular tribute to the songs of Billie Holiday. And Reggie continues to be involved in educational efforts linked to Jazz at Lincoln Center.
"Reggie is actually on his way back home from East Lansing now," Mardra said. "He and the Professors of Jazz were doing a series of clinics for music students in Detroit."
Mardra admits that the move to Michigan has been an adjustment in terms of climate, and she's definitely looking forward to an upcoming cruise in the Caribbean over the holiday break that she and Reggie have planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
"I'm definitely looking forward to warm," she laughs. "And please let everyone back in the St. Louis area know that we're working to set up a return visit there in May or June that will hopefully include some performances! It will be good to get back and see everyone!"
Terry Perkins is a freelance write who often covers music for the Beacon.