What does it mean to be an Omni-American? An Omni-Citizen, or an Omni-Musician? How can Jazz be taught as a metaphor for American culture and democracy? In what ways do our modern conversations about diversity and inclusion badly need to include some Albert Murray in the mix? Greg Thomas joins me this week to discuss this as well as the gaps in our understanding of Jazz as a musical tradition, as well as an intellectual salon of American philosophy and culture. We discuss Greg’s work with the Jazz Leadership Project and the utility of Jazz as a metaphor to help us understand conflict, productivity, racism, culture and so much more.
Albert Murray, an American writer and cultural critic, coined the term “Omni-American” to describe a distinctive American identity that encompasses and celebrates the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the United States. According to Murray, being an Omni-American means recognizing and embracing the intermingling of various ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds that have contributed to American society.
Murray argued that the United States is not a melting pot where different cultures blend into a homogeneous whole, but rather a rich tapestry of interconnected and overlapping traditions. He believed that the strength and vitality of American culture come from its ability to absorb and incorporate diverse cultural expressions, creating a dynamic and ever-evolving national identity.
Being an Omni-Musician would mean having a deep understanding and respect for the cultural contexts and historical roots of different musical styles. It would involve studying, collaborating, and learning from musicians representing diverse traditions and backgrounds. By doing so, an Omni-Musician would create a unique and dynamic musical voice that combines and synthesizes various influences.
Greg is CEO of the Jazz Leadership Project, a private company that uses jazz music as a model to enhance leadership success and team excellence. Along with his wife and partner Jewel, the Jazz Leadership Project works with notable firms such as JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, TD Bank, and Google. The leadership blog TuneIntoLeadership.com features their writings.
Greg has been a professional journalist for over 25 years. As an educator, Greg recently taught a course, “Cultural Intelligence: Transcending Race, Embracing Cosmos,” and co-facilitated a six-month class in 2022, titled “Stepping Up: Wrestling with America’s Past, Reimagining Its Future, Healing Together.”
As a Co-Director of the Omni-American Future Project, Greg co-facilitated a two-day broadcast and awards ceremony, “Combating Racism and Antisemitism Together: Shaping an Omni-American Future” in October 2021, and the second annual event in November 2022, “Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together.” In Sept. 2022, he co-led a one-day conference, “Resolving the Race-ism Dilemma.” He also serves on the advisory boards of The Consilience Project, and FAIR, the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. (Omni-Americans by Albert Murray.)