Teacher Profile: Eli Thomas

Eli Thomas

Eli Thomas

Instrument(s): Music Education, Piano, Violin, Voice, Music Theory

City: Washington, DC


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About Eli Thomas

Eli Thomas is a violin, piano, and voice instructor based in Northern Virginia who teaches all ages from preschool to adult. His musical journey has taken him to national and international stages allowing him to develop a heartfelt appreciation and belief that music truly is a universal language.

Eli's musical journey began at the age of six in his hometown of San Diego, California. His ever-growing passion for music took him to the East Coast, where he completed both his bachelors and master's degrees in violin performance at Shenandoah Conservatory, studying under renowned violinist Akemi Takayama. His studies have taken him across the country and internationally to countries such as Spain and Argentina. In Jamaica, he studied pedagogy with master teacher Steven Woodham, a pupil of Zakhar Bron, Europe's leading violin teacher. While in school he served as concertmaster of the conservatory's orchestra and participated in numerous chamber music ensembles. He was invited to attend the Castleton Festival, an intensive opera and orchestra program directed by Lorin Maazel, the former conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He performs frequently in local orchestras including the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and the National String Symphonia, where has served as Assistant Concertmaster. As a soloist, he has performed numerous recitals in the Mid-Atlantic region. He was a featured soloist with the Charles Washington Symphony Orchestra, performing the virtuosic showpiece Zigeunerweisen. In 2014, he was a prizewinner in the Virginia Music Teachers Association concerto competition, and winner of the Bach-Handel competition at Shenandoah Conservatory.

Although his training is primarily classical, Eli has played in numerous genres ranging from Bluegrass and Celtic to jazz and classic rock. In college, he was a member of the Bluefire Jazz String Quartet, which performed both jazz classics and original material. The quartet had the honor to work with Wynton Marsalis, one of the greatest jazz musicians living today. He was also involved in the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra's world premiere of Wynton Marsalis' Blues Symphony. Eli's love for folk music comes from his family heritage. His great-grandfather was a fiddler from the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and some of his earliest memories are of listening to his father's recordings of Cape Breton Celtic music. He was honored to join Celtic Woman and the Irish Tenors as a member of the orchestra for their concerts in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. In the classic rock genre, Eli has performed with a popular local band, including a sold-out show dedicated to the music of the Beatles.
Considered his "fun instrument," Eli began playing this piano as a way of exploring, creating and expressing outside of his more rigorous violin lessons. From an early age he would spend hours at the piano, first learning his sister's lesson books and then moving on to works such as Scott Joplin rags and Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu. He loves that the piano allows one to control melody, harmony, and texture. Eli's style of playing is very free and improvisational, but grounded in technique learned in piano courses he took in college, where he was always the top of his class. While at Shenandoah Conservatory he wrote and performed a work for solo piano, as part of the student- led New Music Collective. He uses the complete Faber piano method, utilizing their performance books, which allow customization to each student's musical tastes.

Eli has been singing from a young age. His earliest experiences with singing were in church as a child, and he developed a love for the art that continued through his musical education. In college, he studied the fundamentals of vocal technique, and took sight-singing classes, in which he excelled. He is the co-founder of the Lighthouse Baptist Church Children's Choir, and is very involved with the adult choir, where he frequently directs rehearsals and performances. In teaching voice, he strives to give each student a foundation in proper technique, note reading and rhythm, allowing him or her to excel in their favorite genres.

As a teacher, Eli has worked with students of all ages, from preschoolers to adults. In addition to teaching violin, Eli works with piano and voice students, which were his secondary instruments studied throughout high school and college as part of his pedagogical curriculum. His passion lies in the opportunity to affect a student's life in a positive way. He loves proving that they are capable of far more than they might imagine, teaching them how to learn, and enabling them to see farther down the road of learning. Through music, he shows them to always be curious, helping every student unleash their own creative spark and open the door to discovery. He believes that a teacher has an important responsibility that requires constant dedication, hard work, and self-evaluation to ensure every student gets the very best they deserve.

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