Panist | Percussionist | Composer | Arranger | Educator
Leon Foster Thomas is a unique force in modern jazz. All About Jazz has labeled him as “the next big thing on his instrument”; “his gift is an ability to bring forth any style with abandon, and play his steel pan as if it belonged in jazz all along…there are times when Leon Foster Thomas plays his steel pan like Gary Burton on vibes” (Examiner.com). Winner of the World Steelband Music Festival’s Soloist and Duet competitions in 2002 and 2004, Leon has worked with artists such as: Hugh Masekela, Melton Mustafa, Vince Mendoza, Richard Smallwood, Kevin Mahogany, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Dolly Parton, Slinger Francisco “The Mighty Sparrow,” Cyril Neville, and many more.
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Foster, as he is also called, was born in the southern city of San Fernando. He credits his parents, for his musical voice and local pan yards for his initial musical training. After graduating from secondary school in Trinidad, Leon received a scholarship to attend Florida Memorial University. In addition to graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree, he was also recognized as the Visual and Performing Arts Most Outstanding Student. He later obtained his Master in Music degree from Florida International University. With a growing discography and as a prominent figure in the Miami music scene, he has performed and recorded on Jazz, Latin, Rock, Gospel and Hip Hop albums worldwide.
In 2003, Leon composed the piece, Call of the Amerindians: Rule of the Cacique, for Steel Pan soloist Shiron Cooper, which won her the top prize at Trinidad and Tobago’s 26th Biennial Music Festival. As both a drummer and panist, he has won the country’s National Panorama competition with Phase II Pan Groove (2014, 2013, 2008, 2005) and with Sound Specialists of Laventille (2007). Leon has served as the musical director for Miami Pan Symphony Steel Orchestra, winning numerous competitions including the Miami Carnival’s 2009 Panorama. He has also served as musical director of New York's Pan Sonatas Steel Orchestra (2013 - 2015) and Tobago's Katzenjammers Steel Orchestra (2015). Leon is currently the musical director for Trinidad's Fonclaire Steel Orchestra.
Having two well-received solo albums under his belt, his latest release, Metamorphosis, on Ropeadope Records (June 3rd, 2016) exemplifies his growth and maturation as a musician. Honing his in-depth talents as a musical storyteller, Leon has produced an album which perfectly illustrates his transformative journey. He continues to perform at various festivals and concerts around the world, as well as conducting clinics at various educational institutions on Jazz, Caribbean music and the Steel Pan art form.