Praised by the Boston Musical Intelligencer as “poised to join the ranks of the finest,” pianist Toni James enjoys a versatile career as a chamber musician, soloist, educator, director, and innovator. Having performed worldwide across Europe, the UK, and North America, she has performed on stages including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater, Jordan Hall, Shalin Liu Performance Center, Bing Concert Hall and Copley Symphony Hall.
Toni currently splits her time between Liverpool and Paisley, Scotland where she is Managing Director of Tannahill Arts and Heritage. She has ongoing performing collaborations with violinist Colin Scobie of the Maxwell String Quartet, soprano Alison McNeill, and American flautist Pamela Vliek Martchev, with whom she formed Doyenne Duo in 2019.
She frequently performs with some of the finest high-profile classical artists including violinist Rachel Barton Pine, Conn-Selmer Roster Artists, and principals of the major American symphony orchestras (Cleveland, Indianapolis, Greenville, Los Angeles, San Diego). Most recently Toni appeared as concerto soloist for the world premiere of award-winning British composer Alan Fleming Baird’s Piano Concerto and performed in chamber music recitals with UCLA’s Doug Masek (saxophone) and National Philharmonic concertmaster Laura Colgate.
A talented director, producer, and entrepreneurial musician, she led the San Diego Guitar Festival in its first four years, as Managing Director, building an internationally and culturally significant organisation that attracts the finest guitarists from all over the world representing different ethnic, musical, and cultural traditions. The Festival’s outreach programming in middle and high schools across the San Diego region, engages young people in schools with federal funding for large low-income populations. She also developed Women in Music at the University of Liverpool, an event she co-produces with her colleague Ruth Minton, that provides the next generation of women in music with career pathways and industry mentoring.
As founding member and pianist 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.
A top prizewinner in the Moray, Scottish International Piano Academy and International Emmanuel Durlet competitions, Toni’s festival appearances include Banff, Heifetz, Mainly Mozart, La Jolla, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet Seminar at Stanford University.
Toni received her Doctorate 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.
Appointed Professor of Piano and Pedagogy at San Diego State University School of Music and Dance in 2016, Toni now teaches Classical Performance and Pedagogy on the faculty of the Music Department at the University of Liverpool, where she also directs Chamber Music.