In demand as a soloist, collaborator and educator, Dr. Toni James is loved by both critics and audiences. Praised for the “personality of her interpretation” (New York Times) and known for her “ability to shift seamlessly between styles, as adept in Scarlatti as in her majestic virtuosity in Shostakovich” (Mirror), Toni’s recordings have also caught the attention of critics, winning acclaim from Gramophone, MusicWeb International and Fanfare Magazine: “creating the ether of Fauré’s empyreal sound world, this quite simply is the most rapturously beautiful performance of the work I’ve ever heard” (Jerry Dubins).
Toni has performed extensively in the US, UK and Europe, most recently, as concerto soloist for the world premiere of award-winning British composer Alan Fleming Baird’s Piano Concerto and chamber music performances with UCLA’s Doug Masek (saxophone) and as Visiting Distinguished Professor with Greenville Symphony Orchestra Concertmistress Laura Colgate. She has appeared in Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater, Jordan Hall, Rolston Recital Hall, Shalin Liu Performance Center, Bing Concert Hall and Copley Symphony Hall; as well as Live with Kathy Fuller on WGBH Radio and as featured artist on Robert Sherman’s Young Artists Showcase on WNYC on WQXR. Toni was a top prizewinner in the Moray, BBC Young Musician of the Year, Scottish International Piano Academy and International Emmanuel Durlet competitions, also earning top honours in the Royal Conservatoire’s competitions: Mozart Memorial Concerto Prize, Governor’s Recital Prize and Bach Prize.
As a member of Neave Trio, Toni was showcased at Chamber Music America’s 2015 Annual Conference in NYC. The trio gave its Rockport Festival debut in 2014 to enthusiastic reviews, named among the “Best of 2014” by the Boston Musical Intelligencer and commissioning a new world premiere by American composer Augusta Reed Thomas. The trio appeared frequently as soloists in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and in cutting-edge collaborations with visual and dance artists, winning “Best Production” at the 2015 San Diego International Fringe festival. Neave were invited for the prestigious residencies at the Banff Centre (Canada) and San Diego State University, becoming the first-ever Fisch/Axelrod Trio-in-Residence.
Toni has performed as a soloist and chamber musician at international festivals including Banff, Heifetz, Mainly Mozart and La Jolla, collaborating with leading artists including Rachel Barton Pine, Conn-Selmer roster artists and principal players of the major symphonies including San Diego, Indianapolis and Cleveland orchestras. A frequent collaborator with today’s composers, Toni has been featured at the New West Electronic Arts and Music Organisation International Festival. In 2019, Toni, as pianist in Doyenne Duo along with flautist Pamela Vliek Martchev, gave the European premiere of American composer Daniel Dorff’s Flute Sonata Three Lakes at the inaugural Tannahill Arts Festival. The duo will collaborate on a new CD during the 2020-2021 season as well as perform recital dates in the US, Mexico and UK.
Toni received her DMA from the Eastman School of Music, receiving the School’s highest honours in performance: the 2012 Max Landow Scholarship, awarded annually by the faculty to a doctoral pianist for distinction in performance and the Baskin Scholarship Award for outstanding doctoral degree recital. Toni was also the youngest ever Scottish pianist to receive a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance with First Class Honours from the Royal Conservatoire, aged just twenty.
Toni began her teaching career in higher education at the Eastman School of Music, being awarded the Graduate Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching and completing a Postgraduate Certificate in College and Community Education. After holding Lectureships, in 2016 Dr. James was appointed Professor at the School of Music and Dance at San Diego State University. In 2018, she received San Diego State University's Exceptional Service Award. Dr. James' innovations in training musicians in the 21st century led to her selection as a presenter at the 2017 Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education Conference.
"The challenging program of Beach, Auerbach, Debussy, Janacek, and Piazzolla was engaging, with great variety, sensitivity, and bravura"
- Dr. Thomas Joiner, Orchestra Director, Professor of Violin, Furman University
Dr. James' 5/11/18 concert in Daniel Recital Hall, Greenville South Carolina