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Thollem McDonas

Thollem McDonas is a composer, pianist, improviser, teacher and writer.  He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of Irish and Cherokee descent.  At the age of five, he began studying the keyboard repertoire from the medieval to the 20th century and studied with many notable teachers including Aiko Onishi and Lou Harrison.  After graduating with degrees in both piano performance and composition, he dedicated his 20s and 30s to grassroots political activism.  In 2005, he refocused his attention on a breadth of musics that incorporate his myriad experiences and curiosities.  In this last decade alone, he has played well over 1,000 concerts throughout North America and Europe as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers.  As leader or co-leader, he has released almost 50 albums in that span on 19 different vanguard labels to international critical acclaim.  “Thollem is an astounding pianist who understands the huge scope of the instrument” (Terry Riley) and who continues to delve into the furthest reaches and sub-genres of Post-Classical, Free Jazz, Noise, Punk, dance and film. A brief cross section of his many recent collaborators include William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Stefano Scodanibbio, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Martha Colburn and Matthew Barney.

Thollem has worked within many communities throughout the United States, Mexico and Europe. With workshops that culminate in performances by the participants, he  has had the opportunity to live and work among a diversity of artists. As a guest composer and teacher, he maintains that the highlight of his career thus far was a project with a full youth orchestra in an economically-challenged town outside of Oaxaca City, Mexico, guiding them in a week-long workshop of structured improvisational techniques. They successfully performed a cohesive and spontaneously composed concert in Oaxaca City at Teatro San Miguel, without a conductor or music stands, to the delight of the audience and their own Maestro.
 In 2012, Thollem was invited to the Rassegna di Nuova Musica in Macerata, Italy, by its director, the late Stefano Scodanibbio.  He was asked to compose a piano quartet specifically for three of the greatest living Italian string players Francesco Dillon, Daniele Roccato and Marco Rogliano, and presented the piece in the festival that February.

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”One of the most captivating pianists working today” — Rui Eduardo Paes, Jazz.pt (Portugal)

“fearless experimentation…super-human handwork” – Brad Cohan, New York City Jazz Record

“McDonas is half pianist, half hurricane”
— Steve Holtje, Culture Catch

“A particularly powerful voice” — David Keenan, The Wire (England)

“An intense and virtuosic keyboardist” —Time Out New York

“Transforms 88 keys into a texturally staggering ensemble.” - Detroit Metro Times

“McDonas is known for his rapturous solo piano work which transgresses genre boundaries as much as it transcends them

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Primary Instrument

Piano

Location

Santa Fe

Credentials/Background

Over the years, as a teacher, Thollem has worked with musicians and non-musicians alike in a wide variety of approaches and techniques through private lessons and large ensembles, in music conservatories, high school concert bands, with developmentally disabled adults and children, the incarcerated, the elderly, youth symphonies and chamber ensembles. He has been traveling perpetually for years working within communities throughout North America and Europe, collaborating with a wide array of musicians, dancers, filmmakers, writers, poets, and painters. Thollem grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the son of the dedicated and inspiring piano teacher, Geraldine Simons. He began teaching private and group piano and theory lessons when he was 13 years old. Thollem is available on-line and in person for one-on-one and small group instruction. Subjects include: * piano technique * music history/appreciation *the creative process * listening * improvisation as a way of life * composition * collaboration * career development

Clinic/Workshop Information

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Photos

Albums

Meeting At The...

Odradek Records
2017

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Meeting At The...

Odradek Records
2016

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Conformity Contortion

New Atlantis Records
2014

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The View From Up

Setola di Maiale
2014

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Michael Snow and...

Edgetone Records
2014

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Thollem/Robair: Trio...

Setola di Maiale
2014

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Bian

From: Estamos Trio: People's Historia
By Thollem McDonas

Hinges

From: Magimc: Polishing the Mirror
By Thollem McDonas

Mind Control Free For All

From: Dub Narcotic Session
By Thollem McDonas

In Return to It All Once Again

From: On Debussy's Piano And...
By Thollem McDonas

as there are

From: Thollem/Parker/Cline: The...
By Thollem McDonas

Between Our World Is Seen

From: The View From Up
By Thollem McDonas

For All Those Yet To Come

From: Gone Beyond Reason To Find One
By Thollem McDonas

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