One of the most wonderful rewards of choral singing is the chance to create something more beautiful than any one singer could create alone. When we contribute our talents as a choral singer to the artistic life of our community and the world, we help enrich our collective culture and nurture the spirit of our planet.

—Tony Thornton

Music has permeated my life. When I was a baby, my mother sang to me often, and my relatives tell me I began singing before I spoke my first word. A shy child, I found it difficult to make friends. I was scrawny and had a very high, soft voice for a boy, so I was a self-conscious kid all around. Through singing and the study of music—specifically, singing as part of the chorus in junior high school and high school—I could build relationships with other students and grow in self-confidence. Although I enjoyed my other subjects, singing in the choir was the reason I got up each morning to go to school. My early exposure to music as a singer and pianist at church and school led me to dedicate my life to the service of music and, in particular, to choral music.

For the choral nerd, there is no better place to study than Westminster Choir College. At Westminster, I had opportunities to perform as a member of the renowned Westminster Choir, including participating in the Spoleto Festivals in Charleston, SC, and Spoleto, Italy. In addition, I sang in the Westminster Symphonic Choir under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt and Frauke Haasemann. The Symphonic Choir performed regularly with conductors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, and Mstislav Rostropovich with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic. One of my all-time mountaintop experiences was performing and recording Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. Christa Ludwig was the mezzo-soprano soloist!

Following the completion of my degree at Westminster, I attended Louisiana State University for a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting, where I had the privilege of singing under the gifted conductor and teacher Kenneth Fulton. Dr. Fulton is a giant in choral music. Thinking about my time at LSU brings back memories of glorious music and meeting lifelong friends. 

I taught high school choral music for two years in Texas and New Jersey before moving to Los Angeles. Prior to my relocation to the West Coast in 1994, Robert Shaw selected me to sing in his Grammy Award-winning ensemble, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. The ensemble held a residency in southern France each summer, where we toured for three weeks and recorded under the Telarc label. Carnegie Hall contracted the ensemble as the core group for the Robert Shaw Choral Workshops held each January. I remained a singer in this highly acclaimed ensemble until 1999, the year of Shaw’s death.

In Los Angeles, I was the Artistic Director of the West Coast Singers and the Founding Artistic Director of Los Angeles Choral Artists. Many of my best friends were members of these ensembles. While our lives have taken us in different directions, the bonds of friendship are stronger than ever. I’m grateful for all the exceptional people I’ve met through music. 

My network in Los Angeles expanded to include friends in the film, TV, and music industries. As the musician in my circle of friends, I was often asked by them to serve as a music supervisor for film and television projects, including the Emmy-nominated documentary The Smith Family. In 2003, I worked with Martin Sheen and Rita Moreno to record the script (voiceover material), and recorded 50 songs with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus to produce a 40-CD set for children titled Finding God. I completed my book about choral singing, The Choral Singer’s Survival Guide, in 2004.

I collaborated with the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest school district in the nation—to present workshops to junior and high school students and their teachers from 2005 to 2008. The joy I received from these teaching experiences encouraged me to complete my doctorate at the University of Arizona, leading to a career as an educator at the university level. With so many wonderful experiences, I could see no better path than to teach the next generation of musicians. Bruce Chamberlain was my major professor, and he continues to be a significant influence in my musical life. 

I earned my Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 2008, armed with the tools and experiences necessary to continue (and build on) my career, first as a visiting assistant professor at California State University–Los Angeles for one year, and since 2009 as a faculty member at UMass Amherst. And, yes, I miss the Southern California weather. 

My life in Massachusetts has been musically fulfilling. There are many excellent choral ensembles in the area; two of them are conducted by yours truly. The UMass Chamber Choir is the premier choral ensemble in the Department of Music & Dance. Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble is a community choir of public and private school music teachers in the area, voice teachers, and other experienced choral singers. 

Work as a musical artist has taken me to 24 states and 21 countries. Those who know me also know that I love to travel, so I feel fortunate to do what I love. Italy is one of my favorite countries. In 2021, I was named Artistic Director Designate of the Sarteano Chamber Choral Conducting Workshop. My tenure as artistic director will begin in July 2022. 

These days I am also working on several publications. For more information about my publications and upcoming projects, visit the Choir Room area of my website or click on Book Projects or Choral Series to go directly to those pages. If you’ve written an amazing piece of choral music and wish to submit your work for consideration to be published in my choral series, you will find information there.

I wish you all health and happiness. Enjoy spending time with those you love. I’m spending mine with dear friends and family and two fabulously spoiled cats, Lily and Oliver.