The composer, arranger, and saxophonist Tom Boras grew up in Chicago. He started studying piano at age seven, and the saxophone and clarinet at nine. He discovered jazz at an early age, and was the featured soloist with the Chicago Suburban High School Jazz Ensemble.
In 1962, Boras was awarded a full scholarship to the Stan Kenton Clinics at Indiana University, where he met the composers Morgan Powell and Dee Barton. Powell and Barton recommended that he study performance and composition at North Texas State University. There, Boras played baritone saxophone, bass clarinet and flute in the North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band for three years and recorded three albums with the band from 1967-1969. Two of his arrangements, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat by Charles Mingus and Ol' Five Spot by Charles Lloyd, were recorded for those albums. Following his graduation from North Texas, Boras toured as a performer and arranger with a rhythm and blues group, after which he was hired to play on Woody Herman's band, a stint which lasted ten months. Boras recorded one album with the Herman band, Light My Fire, in October of 1970. He was forced to leave Herman when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as a performer, composer and arranger with the prestigious North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Band of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After an honorable discharge from the service, Boras used the G.I. Bill to study with the composer/theorist George Russell at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. There, he completed a Master of Music degree in composition in 1973. During his time at NEC, Boras taught and performed with the faculty there and at Berklee College of Music, among them Alan Dawson, Tom McKinley, Jaki Byard, Ray Santisi, Herb Pomeroy, Ted Pease, Andy McGee and the Paul Fontaine/Jimmy Mosher Orchestra.
Boras moved to New York in 1976 and in the same year received a National Endowment for the Arts Award in Jazz Composition. He also received a full scholarship to attend Columbia University, where he received his doctorate in composition in 1986.
Boras wrote for and recorded with the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Orchestra, Dave Liebman, the Buddy Rich Orchestra, the Dave Stahl Big Band and the Dalton Gang. He served as composer/arranger for Servisound Music Productions for three years, producing music for advertising and films. In addition, he performed extensively on recording dates, Broadway theater orchestras and in local jazz venues.
In 1985, Boras was appointed director of the New York University Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies program. Alongside his academic work, Boras maintained a professional career in performance and composition. He worked as a free-lance performer in many different ensembles, and wrote the music for an off-Broadway play, Jack's Last Ride, based on the life of Jack Kerouac. He also wrote the music for Signs and Wonders, a musical which was produced at New York University in 2000. In 1994 he released a CD of his work, Three Houses, and, in 2001, finished One Couple, a three-movement work for two pianos. Boras's final project was the completion of his book, Jazz Composition and Arranging. He died on March 12, 2003.