Central Oregon Symphony Orchestra Cellist Chris Thomas

Born in Pendleton, Oregon of a singer/pianist motherand a choir director father (turned house painterand then rodeo director), it is no wonder music is in the genesand “jeans” of Chris Thomas, cellist in the Central Oregon Symphony Orchestra. As a toddler, he learned to play the piano, but it was in fourth grade, being captivated by a photo of a little grasshopper playing this large string instrument, he chose the cello. Only a year later, Chris began his obsession with Beethoven, wondering how one man could have the imagination, the skill to write compositions like The Moonlight Sonata. This ten-year-old wanted to become a composer. Fortunately, his parents supported his obsessionand soon realized that Chris had some unusual talents: perfect pitch, seeing colors associated with sounds. By college his neurologic phenomenon was given a name: Synesthesia: a condition in which a person experiences “crossed” responses to stimuli, most often soundand color. The childhood disadvantage became a musical advantage.

Fast forward to the University of Oregon where while playing cello in the Universityand Eugene Orchestras, Chris completed degrees in political scienceand music composition. With his eyes set on the USC Scoring for Motion Pictures department, Chris began crafting original works for student filmsand building relationships with USC faculty. In 2006 he was one of 12 (out of 2500) admitted to the USC program. While at USC he pitched various department on letting him compose, worked on scores for ABC Lostand established a sound studio where he began composing concert worksand music for film, TV, video games, theme parks.

He has orchestrated large works for the Los Angeles Philharmonicand Master Chorale,and his own works have been performedand recorded by the Hollywood Studio Orchestra, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Rose City Chamber Orchestra, University of Southern California Symphonyand the Angeles String Quartet.

Last February Chris moved to Bend so that his wife Bridgette, a speechand language pathologist, could accept a position at St. Charles. He still commutes regularly to LA, the hub of music creation, but admits that Bend has substituted LA traffic time with more freedom to thinkand play his cello. Playing in the symphony under conductor Michael Gesme, “Makes me a better composer. Michael is an exceptional, gifted instructorand I’m learning so much.”

Come spring, The Central Oregon Symphony will debut Chris’s symphonic composition dedicated to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.


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