Connellsville native returning home for festival

| Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 9:57 p.m.

Mike Tomaro, a former member of the prestigious Pershing's Own U.S. Army Band, is coming home to participate in the Mozart Music Club's annual Festival of Choirs.

Tomaro is an accomplished saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, arranger and educator. He lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 17 years and was a member of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble, a unit of the Pershing's Own U.S. Army Band. While a member of the Army band, Tomaro served as the enlisted musical director and performed for presidents including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton as well as heads of state from around the world.

He currently is the director of jazz studies at Duquesne University, a position he has held since 1997.

Tomaro, a Connellsville native, earned his bachelor of science degree in music edu­cation from Duquesne and his master of arts degree in saxophone perfor­mance from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Tomaro has composed and/or arranged much of the Army Blues repertoire and was featured as a soloist on several of the group's albums and CDs.

Tomaro has four nationally released recordings under his own name that showcase his talents as both performer and writer. They include “Forgotten Dreams,” “Dancing Eyes” and “Home Again.” His latest CD, “Nightowl Suite,” features his compositions and arrangements as performed by the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, a group that he cofounded.

Additionally, Tomaro has been featured on many other CDs as performer and/or arranger, most notably on Nancy Wilson's last two Grammy Award-winning releases, “Turned To Blue” and “RSVP.” He was also featured on New York Voices, “A Day Like This,” Sheryl Bailey's “A New Promise” and the 21st Century Swing Band's “Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy,” all on the MCG Jazz label. On the last two releases, Tomaro is prominently featured as the main arranger as well as a soloist.

Tomaro's music has been performed by jazz greats, as well as high schools, colleges and universities around the world. His orchestral arrangements have been performed by the Pittsburgh and National Symphony Orchestras. He also scored all the music for MCG/Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's production of Duke Ellington's musical “Beggar's Holiday.”

As a performer, Tomaro has worked with such diverse artists and groups as Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, Michael Feinstein, Linda Ronstadt, Debby Boone, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Bergeron, Terence Blanchard, Louis Bellson, Terry Gibbs, Dizzy Gillespie Tribute Big Band, Woody Herman Orchestra and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, where he is featured on their DVD, “Live at MCG.” He is a member of the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy Band and has performed with guitarist Joe Negri, Pittsburgh Symphony, River City Brass Band, Pittsburgh Ballet and Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble in addition to leading his own small groups and the aforementioned Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra. He is also a member and co-artistic director (with trumpeter Sean Jones) of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.

Tomaro has co-authored the textbook “Instrumental Jazz Arranging: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide” (Hal Leonard Publications), with his long-time mentor, Dr. John Wilson, who was director of jazz studies at Duquesne University from 1972-1996.

“Though I've been away for some time, I still consider myself a citizen of Connellsville. I have many fond memories of the city and friends,” said Tomaro. “I look forward to returning to play for everyone and hopefully reconnecting with classmates and other friends whom I haven't seen for many years. As for what I've achieved, it's all quite relative. I just do what I was trained to do. I feel very lucky that my vocation as a musician is also my avocation. I also thank God for the talent given to me that helped me accomplish what I have so far in life. However, to put things into perspective, no matter how much joy I receive from music, it will never surpass the joy I received as a husband and continue to receive as a father.”

The Festival of Choirs will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Wesley United Methodist Church, Connellsville.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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