Dr Toni James received her first teaching engagement at the age of seventeen as a Young Teaching Artist for the Scottish International Piano Competition. She 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 Teaching. Following Lectureships, Toni was appointed Professor in 2015 at the School of Music and Dance at San Diego State University. In 2018, Toni was awarded San Diego State University’s Exceptional Service Award recognising her educational leadership within undergraduate and postgraduate music programmes and a range of significant academic and professional student outcomes. In addition to a deep knowledge of teaching pianists, collaborative music-making and training musicians at the highest level, Toni has spearheaded music curricula that embeds creative entrepreneurship, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and community engagement initiatives. 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, and she is a frequent contributor to major national conferences including Chamber Music America and the Music Teachers’ National Association.
Dr James has extensive professional experience shaping access, learning, education, development, and professional opportunities of musicians within higher, pre-university, adult, and community education settings, including as Co-Director of the San Diego Winds Summer Music Institute and leading the Piano Academy at the Community Music School at San Diego State University. She is also frequently invited to provide expertise in the creation of new educational initiatives and partnerships. Toni co-directed “Community Days” as part of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra’s International Festival of the Keyboard ‘Upright and Grand’, designing programming, lesson “walk-ins”, early childhood music participation sessions, and music engagement activities for children and families.
Providing career development and advancement opportunities for underrepresented students drives Toni’s work as an educator. In 2020, she was invited to join the faculty of the Music Department at the University of Liverpool. In addition to teaching Classical Performance and Pedagogy, as well as directing Chamber Music, Dr James developed Women in Music to shine a light on issues of equity and diversity that must be addressed to build a brighter, fairer, more inclusive and sustainable future for women in the music industry.