Lone Star Conversations


Lone Star Conversations is an exciting web series made in response to COVID-19 and our inability to meet as a full ensemble. This web series is comprised of five interviews of the industry’s leading composers and conductors.

Our panel of Frank Ticheli, John Mackey, Julie Giroux, Omar Thomas, and Ian Weinberger represent a diverse, innovative, and downright famous collection of influential artists that will serve as educational and insightful voices to our online community.

With this series of panelists, our webinar series will provide a rare “through the eyes of,” including:

  • Giroux’s experience being the first female composer featured at a US Presidential Inauguration, and the youngest recipient and first female recipient of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Musical Direction, in 1992.
  • Weinberger’s experience as conductor of the world-famous Broadway production of Hamilton, after planning a career as a high school band director.
  • Ticheli, a seasoned friend of the LSWO, and his major contributions and influences to the wind band world
  • Mackey’s insights to composition, his unique voice, and his amazing output and contribution to 21st century music
  • Thomas’ recent receipt of the prestigious Revelli Award Composition Prize, and his amazing ability to redefine the American wind band sound

Lone Star Conversations is a silver lining to a virtual world, and is an opportunity that perhaps will never happen again.

Lone Star Conversations is sponsored by Williamson-Music 1st

Dates and Times

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 @ 5:30 PM

Featured Guest: Composer Omar Thomas

Read Omar Thomas’ bio

Described as “elegant, beautiful, sophisticated, intense, and crystal clear in emotional intent,” the music of Omar Thomas continues to move listeners everywhere it is performed. Born to Guyanese parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1984, Omar moved to Boston in 2006 to pursue a Master of Music in Jazz Composition at the New England Conservatory of Music after studying Music Education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is the protégé of lauded composers and educators Ken Schaphorst and Frank Carlberg, and has studied under multiple Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider.

Hailed by Herbie Hancock as showing “great promise as a new voice in the further development of jazz in the future,” educator, arranger, and award-winning composer Omar Thomas has created music extensively in the contemporary jazz ensemble idiom. It was while completing his Master of Music Degree that he was appointed the position of Assistant Professor of Harmony at Berklee College of Music at the surprisingly young age of 23. He was awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award in 2008, and invited by the ASCAP Association to perform his music in their highly exclusive JaZzCap Showcase, held in New York City. In 2012, Omar was named the Boston Music Award’s “Jazz Artist of the Year.” Following his Berklee tenure, he served on faculty of the Music Theory department at The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition at The University of Texas at Austin.

Omar’s music has been performed in concert halls the world over. He has been commissioned to create works in both jazz and classical styles. His work has been performed by such diverse groups as the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, the San Francisco and Boston Gay Mens’ Choruses, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in addition to a number of the country’s top collegiate music ensembles. Omar has had a number of celebrated singers perform over his arrangements, including Stephanie Mills, Yolanda Adams, Nona Hendryx, BeBe Winans, Kenny Lattimore, Marsha Ambrosius, Sheila E., Raul Midon, Leela James, Dionne Warwick, and Chaka Khan. His work is featured on Dianne Reeves’s Grammy Award-winning album, “Beautiful Life.”

Omar’s first album, “I AM,” debuted at #1 on iTunes Jazz Charts and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums Chart. His second release, ” We Will Know: An LGBT Civil Rigths Piece in Four Movements,” has been hailed by Grammy Award-wining drummer, composer, and producer Terri Lyne Carrington as being a “thought provoking, multi-layered masterpiece” which has “put him in the esteemed category of great artists.” “We Will Know” was awarded two OUTMusic Awards, including “Album of the Year.” For this work, Omar was named the 2014 Lavender Rhino Award recipient by The History Project, acknowledging his work as an up-and-coming activist in the Boston LGBTQ community. Says Terri Lyne: “Omar Thomas will prove to be one of the more important composer/arrangers of his time.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 @ 5:30 PM

Featured Guest: Conductor Ian Weinberger

Read Ian Weinberger’s bio

Ian Weinberger is a New York-based music director. Regional: Titanic (Westchester Broadway Theatre, Hangar Theatre), My Fair Lady, Fanny Brice: America’s Funny Girl (Asolo Rep), Merrily We Roll Along and Pippin (The Music Theatre Company). Broadway: Hamilton, The Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots. New York: A New Brain (Encores! Off-Center), Titanic (Avery Fisher Hall) and Nobody Loves You. His orchestrations of Titanic were recently heard in the Griffin Theatre Company production at Theater Wit in Chicago, as well as in productions in London, Tokyo and Toronto. Broadway/Off-Broadway orchestras: Rocky, Side Show, Chaplin, Little Miss Sunshine and Death Takes a Holiday. TV: Peter Pan Live and The Sound of Music Live (NBC). Proud native of Evanston and graduate of Northwestern University.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 @ 5:30 PM

Featured Guest: Composer Julie Giroux

Read Julie Giroux’s bio

Julie Ann Giroux was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts on December 12, 1961. She graduated from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge LA in 1984. She started playing piano at 3 years of age and began composing at the age of 8 and has been composing ever since. Her first published work for concert band, published by Southern Music Company was composed at the age of 13.

Julie began composing commercially in 1984. She was hired by Oscar winning composer Bill Conti as an orchestrator,  her first project with Conti being “North & South” the mini-series. With over 100  film, television and video game credits, Giroux collaborated with dozens of film composers, producers, and celebrities including Samuel Goldwyn, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Celene Dion, Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Paul Newman, Harry Connick Jr. and many others. Projects she has worked on have been nominated for Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globe awards. She has won individual Emmy Awards in the field of “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction”. When She won her first Emmy Award, she was the first woman and the youngest person to ever win that award.  She has won it three times.

Giroux has also published a large category of classical works with emphasis on original compositions for Wind Band which are published by Musica Propria and distributed internationally. She is greatly sought after as a composer and recently completing her 5th Symphony “Sun, Rain & Wind” which premiered in June, 2018. Her music has been recorded and reviewed internationally receiving top reviews and her music has been performed at major music festivals the world over.

Giroux has been a true force in a male dominated field and has accrued many previously male only awards. She is a member of ASCAP, The Film Musicians Fund, Kappa Kappa PSI, Tau Beta Sigma and a member of the American Bandmasters Association. She is a recipient of the Distinguished Service to Music Medal Award, Emmy Awards and was the first female composer inducted into the American Bandmasters Association in 2009.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 @ 5:30 PM

Featured Guest: Composer Frank Ticheli

Read Frank Ticheli’s bio

Frank Ticheli (b. January 21, 1958) is an American born composer. His works are diverse and include pieces for concert band, orchestra, chorus, and various chamber groups. Ticheli graduated high school from L.V. Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas. Upon graduating high school, he attended Southern Methodist University in University Park Texas. Here he studied with Donald Erb and Jack Waldenmaier and earned his Bachelor of Music in Composition. Ticheli then studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson and the University of Michigan, where he earned both his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Composition.

Following completion of his degree’s, Ticheli became an Assistant Professor of Music in San Antonio, Texas at Trinity University. While in Texas, he was a member of the advisory committee for the San Antonio Symphony’s “Music of the Americas” project and also served on the board of directors of the Texas Composers Forum. From 1991 thru 1998, Ticheli was composer-in-residence with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in Orange County, California. He has been a Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thorton School of Music since 1991.

Over his lifetime, Ticheli has been the recipient of many awards. He has received The Arts and Letters Award, Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, and Charles Ives Scholarship, all from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ticheli has also received the National Band Association/Revelli Memorial Prize, the A. Austin Harding Award, and First Prize in the Texas Sesquicentennial Orchestral Composition Competition, the Britten-on-the-Bay Choral Composition Contest, and the Virginia CBDNA Symposium for New Band Music. At USC, he has received the Virginia Ramo Award for excellence in teaching, and the Dean’s Award for Professional Achievement.  In 2011, Ticheli even endowed the “Frank Ticheli Composition Scholarship” which is to be awarded to an incoming graduation composition student each year.

Ticheli’s music has been described as being as “optimistic and thoughtful” by the Los Angeles Times, “lean and muscular” by the New York Times, “brilliantly effective” by the Miami Herald and “powerful, deeply felt crafted with impressive flair and an ear for striking instrumental colors” by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. His works are published by Manhattan Beach, Southern, Hinshaw, and Encore Music and are recorded on the labels Albany, Chandos, Clarion, Equilibrium, Klavier, Koch International, Mark, Naxos, and Reference.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 @ 5:30 PM

Featured Guest: Composer John Mackey

Read John Mackey’s bio

John Mackey has written for orchestras (Brooklyn Philharmonic, New York Youth Symphony), theater (Dallas Theater Center), and extensively for dance (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Parsons Dance Company, New York City Ballet), but the majority of his work for the past decade has been for wind ensembles (the fancy name for concert bands), and his band catalog now receives annual performances numbering in the thousands.

Recent commissions include works for the BBC Singers, the Dallas Wind Symphony, military, high school, middle school, and university bands across America and Japan, and concertos for Joseph Alessi (principal trombone, New York Philharmonic) and Christopher Martin (principal trumpet, New York Philharmonic). In 2014, he became the youngest composer ever inducted into the American Bandmasters Association. In 2018, he received the Wladimir & Rhoda Lakond Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He resides in San Francisco, California, with his spouse, a philosopher who works on the ethics of technology, and also titles all of his pieces; and their cats, Noodle and Bloop.


Lone Star Conversations will be presented on Zoom and will require online registration to attend. This web series is free to the public.


Jonathan M. Villela serves as Program Director and Moderator for Lone Star Conversations. He is a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Texas at Austin where he assists with concert ensembles, undergraduate conducting instruction, graduate wind literature, and the Longhorn Band.

Villela served as Assistant Director of Bands at Four Points Middle School (Leander ISD) where the Concert and Symphonic Ensembles consistently received highest ratings in competitions and state evaluations under his direction. Also, Villela has held guest-conducting positions with the Dallas Winds and Cedar Park Winds.

At the University of Texas, Villela was named recipient of the Richard E. Rainwater Grant for Innovation, recipient of the City of Austin Cultural Arts Initiative, and was recently awarded the Texas Music Educators Graduate Scholarship. Further, he is an appointed council member of the Texas Civic Impact Council where he contributes to solutions for community growth and develops recovery response strategies for COVID-19.