Kelland Thomas (kthomas3)

Kelland Thomas

Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


  • BS (2008) University of Arizona (Computer Science)
  • MM (1997) University of Michigan (Music Theory)
  • Other (1997) University of Michigan (Doctor of Musical Arts in Saxophone Performance)
  • MM (1995) University of Michigan (Saxophone Performance)
  • BM (1994) Michigan State University (Saxophone Performance)

General Information

Kelland Thomas is Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of Music & Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology. Under his leadership, the college has implemented an ambitious five-year strategic plan, grown enrollment, increased sponsored research awards and expenditures, and added outstanding new faculty. He established collaborative partnerships with the Experiments in Art and Technology program at Nokia Bell Labs and the United Jazz Foundation, and created two new fellowships to honor faculty achievements in research and creative activity.

Before coming to Stevens, Dr. Thomas was on the faculty at the University of Arizona (UA) for 19 years, where he served as Interim Director of the School of Information: Science, Technology, and Arts (SISTA) as well as the founding Associate Director of the School of Information. He was a member of the task force that established the UA School of Information, the first iSchool in the Southwestern United States.

Since his debut as a saxophone soloist with the Houston Symphony in 1993, Thomas has concertized throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. As a chamber musician, he was a prize winner in the Coleman, Carmel, and Fischoff Chamber Music Competitions, and toured with such chamber groups as the PRISM Quartet, Resounding Winds, the Michigan Quartet (with Donald Sinta), the Michigan Chamber Players, and the Borealis Saxophone Quartet. He has collaborated with composers to commission and premiere more than 30 new works for saxophone. As a jazz saxophonist he has recorded and toured nationally with fusion ensemble Sylvan Street, the Original Wildcat Jass Band, and the Firecracker Jazz Band, and has performed with such jazz luminaries as Rufus Reid, Jimmy Cobb, Jimmy Heath, the Manhattan Transfer, David "Fathead" Newman, and Diane Schuur, as well as the rock band Spoon. His recording of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IXb was included in the Mode boxed set “Complete Sequenzas and Works for Solo Instruments”, which New York Times critic Anne Midgette declared one of the 10 Best Releases of 2006. Thomas has also recorded for the Summit Jazz, AUR, New Vintage, and Albany labels.

An active researcher, he was awarded funding as Principal Investigator from DARPA’s Communicating with Computers program for MUSical Improvising Collaborative Agent (MUSICA), which received international press from Tech Insider,, and the Guardian UK, among others. He has given talks on music, artificial intelligence, and creativity at such venues as South by Southwest, Propelify, and J.P. Morgan Chase’s Innovation Week. As Director of the UA Creative Computing Lab, he was featured in Atlantic Monthly Online for a project to migrate Bryan Carter's Virtual Harlem to the open source Unity 3D game engine.

He holds five degrees, including the degree Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. His principal saxophone teachers include Joe Lulloff, James Forger, Donald Walden, and Donald Sinta.

Honors and Awards

Third Round Entrant (Top 32 Teams) to the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE International Competition (Project Lead, Team CwC) (2018)
Grammy Entry List Nominee, Best Instrumental Solo for “Poverty Stricken” from Sylvan Street, Here in America (2011)
University of Arizona College of Fine Arts Medici Faculty Fellowship (2004)
Presser Foundation Graduate Music Award (for study with Luciano Berio) (1996)
Quarter-Finalist, Geneva International Performers’ Competition, Geneva, Switzerland (1995)
The Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts, Michigan State University (1994)
2nd prize, Houston Symphony Young Artists’ Competition, Houston, TX (1993)
1st prize (with the Borealis Quartet), Wind Division, Carmel Chamber Music Competition, Carmel, CA (1993)
2nd prize (with the Borealis Quartet), Wind Division, Coleman Chamber Music Competition, Los Angeles, CA (1993)
1st prize (with the Borealis Quartet), Wind Division, Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, South Bend, IN (1992)

Grants, Contracts and Funds

MUSical Improvising Collaborative Agent (MUSICA), Communicating with Computers, DARPA BAA-15-18. (Principal Investigator, Co-PI from August 2019-2020) ($2,319,457) (2015)
Virtual Harlem: A Geographically Accurate Virtual Reality Environment in the Unity 3D Open Source Game Engine. (Co-PI with Bryan Carter) ($14,337) (2015)
National Endowment for the Arts Matching Grant to Resounding Winds ($8,000) (1999)
Chamber Music America Grant to Resounding Winds for arts-in-education residencies ($6,000) (1999)

Selected Publications

Book Chapter

  1. Thomas, K. (2010). The Importance of Case Studies in Arts Entrepreneurship Curricula. Disciplining the Arts: Teaching Entrepreneurship in Context. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

CD Recording

  1. Thomas, K. (2015). Sylvan Street, "Feedback Loop". Summit Jazz.
  2. Thomas, K. (2015). The Original Wildcat Jazz Band, "Minor Drag". New Vintage Recordings.
  3. Thomas, K. (2011). Sylvan Street, "Here in America". Summit Jazz.
  4. Thomas, K. (2009). Firecracker Jazz Band, "Red Hot Band". Euphonian.
  5. Thomas, K. (2009). Sylvan Street, "The Perfect Leaf". Summit Jazz.
  6. Thomas, K. (2006). Luciano Berio, "The Complete Sequenzas, Solo Works, and Alternate Sequenzas". Mode Records.
  7. Thomas, K. (1998). UA Wind Ensemble, "David Maslanka". Albany Records.

Conference Proceeding

  1. Quick, D.; Thomas, K. (2019). A Functional Model of Jazz Improvisation. Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Workshop on Functional Art, Music, Modeling and Design.
  2. Jette, C.; Thomas, K.; Villegas, J.; Forbes, A. (2014). Translation as technique: Collaboratively creating an electro-acoustic composition for saxophone and live video projection. Joint Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) and the Sound and Music Computing Conference (SMC) (pp. 463-468).