Thomas Hojnacki

Assistant Chair

"I've had some astonishing teachers over the years. One of them, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who worked with Ray Charles, was a formative influence when I was a teenager in Detroit. He really explained swing articulation to me one night so that I got it, and that made all the difference to me. He was also very encouraging, and to be encouraged as a young person by someone that legendary gives you the courage to pursue music."

"My whole career as a professional musician has been about playing diverse styles of music. I've been fortunate enough to have the kind of training that lets me move pretty easily from one kind of style and performing group to another. So when I teach harmony, I try to show how much of the harmonic structure of music is the same from one style to another. The things that differentiate styles are often superficial."

"I often give my students the form of a tune and a specific chord progression and ask them to pick a key and write their own piece—to choose a style and create a rhythmic motif that will serve as a basis for the melody. It always astonishes students to hear all the stylistic diversity that comes back into class from the same chord progression. Students get three things from this project. First, they're working hands-on with the material in creating their own piece; second, by hearing the same chord progression over and over again, and having worked with it themselves, they learn to hear it and recognize it in other music; and third, they begin to appreciate the stylistic diversity that's possible from the same harmonic font of possibilities."

Career Highlights

  • B.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • Composer, conductor, and pianist
  • Performances with Marcus Belgrave; Brass Attack; Amanda Carr; East Side Horns; George Garzone; Jimmy Giuffre; Gregory Hines; the Hojnacki, Pejrolo, and Skeete Trio; the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra; the John Allmark Jazz Orchestra; the Kenny Hadley Big Band; Al Martino; Steve Marvin; the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra; the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra; and Matt Wilson
  • Principal guest conductor of the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra
  • Recordings include "New Orleans March," MMC New Composers Series, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Robert Black conductor, (MMC Recordings); "Symphony No. 1," Midnight Tolls, Prague Dvorak Symphony Orchestra, Julius Williams conductor (Albany Records); "Toon, Variations and Fugue," Musique que Faire Plaisir, Berlin Saxophone Quartet (BIT Musik Werke)
  • Compositions include choral music, orchestra, band, and chamber music, including All Through the Night: The New Christmas Carol Musical
  • Citation for special artistic merit in musical composition from GEMA (the German performing rights organization)
  • Musical director, conductor, and keyboardist for over 50 theater productions, including opera, musical theater, and ballet; productions at the Charles Playhouse, the Stuart Street Playhouse, the Providence Performing Arts Center, Theatre by the Sea, Worcester Foothills Theatre Company, the Cutler Majestic Theatre, the Colonial Theatre, and the North Shore Music Theatre