D. Thomas Toner is Professor of Percussion at the University of Vermont, where he also conducts the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Percussion Ensemble. He has a doctorate and Performer's Certificate from Eastman, a master's degree and Artist Diploma from Yale, and a BMus. from UMass/Amherst. Dr. Toner has performed with the Clifford Ball Orchestra (for the band Phish), the Rochester Philharmonic, and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, and has played several recitals in China. He joined the Vermont Symphony at age 18 and became Principal Percussionist a few years later. He appears on recordings with the VSO, Robert DeCormier Ensemble, and Trey Anastasio.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Thomas Toner: I'd probably be teaching lessons privately and playing more gigs in the New England area.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
TT: Burlington is an absolutely beautiful city, with a beautiful lake and incredibly views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks. Of course, winter isn't as pleasant as the other seasons.
R!S: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
TT: Because I conduct and perform, most people know me in one role or the other. Very few beyond my family know both sides of my musical interests.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
TT: I was drawn to percussion because of the variety, so I don't have a real favorite. I love the fact that I might be playing timpani on one concert, marimba on another, snare drum on the next, then play djembe or hand drums. I think it's a sign of how much orchestral music has changed in the last 20 years that I've played all of those things, numerous times, with the Vermont Symphony over the last few years.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
TT: I grew up in Vermont, and the junior/senior high school I went to was pretty new. At the end of seventh grade, the school bought timpani, and the band director asked me if I would be willing to learn how to play them. I had failed as a French horn player, but had played piano for years, so I guess he thought I would be able to read the music pretty well. I always wonder what would have happened if he had chosen someone else to play timpani. I might never have started playing percussion or even been very involved in music. It's amazing to me how these seemingly insignificant decisions can end up changing someone's entire life.