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Toni James

Assistant Professor of Music, Piano

Toni James

Office: M239
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DMA, Piano Performance and Literature (Eastman School of Music)
MM, Piano Performance and Literature (Eastman School of Music)
BM, Piano Performance with First Class Honors (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)


Considered among the finest Scottish pianists of her generation, Dr. Toni James is an internationally-recognized prize-winning soloist, chamber music pianist and teacher. Her recordings have won Fanfare Magazine’s “Want List-Recordings of the Year” and MusicWeb International’s “Recording of the Month” awards. Winning acclaim from MusicWeb International, Gramophone, Fanfare Magazine and the Boston Musical Intelligencer, she has been described as a “chamber music pianist of the highest caliber” (Gwyn Parry-Jones -MusicWeb International), “poised to join the ranks of the finest” of her generation (Boston Musical Intelligencer) and noted for her “wonderfully alive playing and the personality of her interpretation” (Boston music critic, Steven Ledbetter). In 2015, she was appointed to the faculty of the School of Music and Dance at San Diego State University where she serves as Assistant Professor of Piano.


Toni James caught the attention of UK audiences as a teenager, winning the Regional Final of BBC television’s annual Young Musician of the Year Competition, having previously won the Gold Medal at the Moray Piano Festival Competition. She made a Semi-Final appearance -as the youngest competitor in the competition- at the International Emmanuel Durlet Prize for Piano Competition in Antwerp, Belgium and made her recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 2011. At the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Toni earned top honors in the Mozart Memorial Concerto competition, Governor’s Recital Prize and Bach Prize for Piano competitions. Toni also received 3rd Prize in the Scottish International Piano Academy Competition. Her success has seen her perform all over the world in recital and festival appearances in the UK, United States and Europe, following her European debut at the British Embassy in Oslo, Norway. She has performed as orchestral soloist and chamber musician 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 a collaborative artist, Toni has performed as pianist with some of the US’ finest instrumentalists including violinist Rachel Barton Pine, members of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and Neave Trio, being presented as a showcase artist at Chamber Music America’s 37th Annual Conference in NYC. Featured on Robert Sherman’s Young Artists Showcase on WNYC on WQXR and Live with Kathy Fuller on WGBH Radio, Toni has also been recipient of several national and international grants including the ACMP Chamber Music Network, Mizel Family Foundation, San Diego State University’s President’s Leadership award and the Scottish Arts Council. She won prestigious scholarships in her home country and has been a Caird, Cross Trust, Hope Scott Trust and Friends of Scotland scholar, as well as being nominated by a cultural arts committee for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts in the Daily Record Newspaper’s 2012 Young Scot of the Year award.


At age 20, Toni was the youngest ever Scottish pianist to receive a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance with First Class Honors from the Royal Conservatoire and in 2015 completed her Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Literature at the Eastman School of Music. While at Eastman, Toni received the School’s highest honors in both performance and teaching. She received the 2012 Max Landow Scholarship, awarded annually by the faculty to a doctoral pianist for distinction in performance, the Baskin Scholarship Award for outstanding doctoral degree recital and the 2010 Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Toni’s record of outstanding teaching prompted her selection for the Eastman School’s College and Community Teaching training, a certificate program for which only one student is selected every three years.


An invited Guest Teaching Artist and Adjudicator for the National Music Teacher’s Association and Musical Merit Foundation, Toni is regularly invited to give masterclasses and clinics across the country as well as collaborate with fellow faculty on training programs for young musicians including the first-ever Piano Workshop at the San Diego Winds’ yearly Summer Music Institute. Alongside her teaching duties, Toni also provides career mentoring support for SDSU students engaging in creative and entrepreneurial projects; since her appointment, students mentored by Toni include several Kiwanis Scholars and several San Diego State University Student Success Fee grant recipients, including the San Diego Guitar Festival (in its third year in 2018). Her undergraduate and graduate student pianists have been accepted to the major keyboard festivals in the US as well as Poland and the Far East.


Upcoming collaborations include those with flutist Pamela Martchev, violist Travis Maril and the world premiere of award-winning composer Alan Fleming Baird’s piano concerto in the UK this Fall.