Tom Schuman was born on January 31, 1958, in Buffalo, NY. His father, Wally, was a jazz bassist and his mother, Marion, was a jazz singer when they met. Greatly influenced by this family of musicians, Tom began playing piano by ear at age six. His parents were reluctant to give him lessons because of their own struggles with the music business. When they heard him playing jazz chords, improvising and writing tunes at age seven, they felt compelled to provide him with all of the musical support a child could possibly have.
He started studying classical piano in 1965. For five years he practiced every day after school but soon grew an aversion to classical piano because of its lack of freedom. He always preferred to "jam" on the classical chord structures instead of playing what was written. One of his teachers, Sandi Holland, was impressed with his natural talent and arranged for him to play and be interviewed on a local radio program. He played Chopin's Prelude in E-minor (as written). Then he played a jazz standard with his dad on bass and friend, Charlie Fadale, on drums. He picked "How Insensitive" because of its melodic similarities to the Chopin Prelude. He was eleven at the time. This experience gave him enough motivation to continue his musical education.
Tom began studying jazz theory, writing and arranging techniques as well as improvisational skills from a number of jazz pianists who were friends of the family. He also gained a lot of experience jamming with his dad at home as well as sitting in with many musician friends around town.
Tom's first "real" gig (other than church organist) was for his high school. He was asked to play the 1973 senior prom at a nearby banquet hall. Check this out! The hall had a dilapidated piano and when Tom pulled at the front of the piano the front legs buckled and the six-foot long, five hundred pound grand piano came crashing down on top of him! Luckily for Tom, he was not seriously hurt. But he had to finish out the gig with the piano resting on top of two garbage cans. To this day, he considers that to be the worst gig he ever played.
Well, to make a long story longer, he quickly began playing with a lot of local pop and jazz bands after joining the musicians' union. It was a great experience playing in night clubs at the age of sixteen. But more interesting and astonishing were the union gigs he ending up playing at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and prisons like Attica, Albion and the Monroe County jail in Rochester. He played these gigs with a band called "The Existing Reality" and later a contemporary jazz band, "Birthright".