Mardra Thomas is known for her realistic portrayal of Billie Holiday in concert and on the theatrical stage. Mardra is a true jazz vocalist with a voice well suited to showcase Holiday’s sculptured phrasing that stamped a signature style on jazz singing. Her music career was sparked in the St. Louis area when she performed for the opening of Dizzy Gillespie’s 70th Birthday Concert. Shortly thereafter she found herself trading scat solos with world-class trumpeter Clark Terry while performing with the East St. Louis Lincoln Big Band under the direction of renowned educator Ronald Carter. Curtains were opened for the theatrical stage when Mardra debuted in Unity Theatre’s “COTTON CLUB REVUE; she went on to deliver stunning interpretations performing in the roles of Bessie and Sadie Delaney-HAVING OUR SAY, Lady in Green-FOR COLORED GIRLS, Power Woman-MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL, Billie Holiday-LADY DAY AT THE BOSTON BISTRO and LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL, and as Mama/Mildred-Terry McMillan’s MAMA at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston/Salem NC.
For five years Mardra was the resident vocalist for the St. Louis Sheldon Concert Hall’s youth educational program “The Jazz Story. Her sultry voice can be heard in radio and TV spots and is released on CD recordings such as “Fade To Blue”(Max Jazz Records), “Standard Times (Victoria Records), as the Flying Jazz Kitten in Sharon Burch’s recently released “Freddie the Frog” music educational book/CD series (Mystic) and featured vocalist on Michigan State University’s Professors of Jazz recent release “Better Than Alright”.
You’ll see her in theatres, concert halls and premier clubs such as Kansas City’s Blue Room and St. Louis’ Jazz at the Bistro. She has shared the stage with diversified greats including: Bill Pierce, Clay Jenkins, Dennis Mackrel, Don Vappie, Ernie Adams, Harold Jones, Jeff Campbell, Kim Richmond, Lou Marini, Randy Brecker, Rodney Whitaker, Victor Goines, and on many occasions with her husband pianist/organist Reggie Thomas in their ensembles. Mardra has presented voice workshops for schools throughout the country including Berklee College of Music-Boston, Birch Creek Music Academy-Egg Harbor, Eastern Washington University-Spokane, International Association of Jazz Educators-Toronto, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Educational Festival-New York, and Michigan State University-East Lansing. Additionally you will find Mardra’s voice center stage at music festivals all around the world. Whether you see her in Washington or Wisconsin, Atlanta or Amsterdam expect to be allured by her acting and mesmerized by her music!