John Ashton Thomas

JOHN ASHTON THOMAS

John has been involved with the world of music for his whole life. In 1969 he became a chorister at Exeter Cathedral. There he gained early encouragement from organist Lionel Dakers, (who conducted the performance of his first choral work), and assistant organist Paul Morgan, who performed an early instrumental composition of John's in 1974.

John studied composition and piano at Trinity College of Music from 1980-84 where his Composition teacher was Richard Arnell. In 1984 John was awarded the senior composition prize, and a scholarship for an additional year of study.

During this period he wrote several film scores for students at the London International Film School, and played in several bands who performed on the London alternative cabaret and open air festival circuits.

On leaving Trinity John worked as a music Lecturer in Liverpool for two years, and also became one of the city's busiest jazz pianists, working with several U.S. jazz artists such as Bill Perkins and Phil Wilson.

John returned to London in 1986 where he rejoined The Chance Element, an experimental minimalist funk band who played in venues across London and south-east England. They played the Glastonbury Festival in 1992. Members of this band included Martin Speake (Alto Saxophone), Martin Elliott (Bass), Gavin Harrison and Ralph Salmins (Drums). John resumed his relationship with the London International Film School at this time, writing several more film scores. One, entitled The Contract (dir. Tony Meyer) was shown extensively in theatres across the UK and on national television, giving John the opportunity he needed to join the PRS.

During this period John taught in several schools and colleges in London, as well as working as a keyboard player and writing music for T.V. and advertising use. He also studied for, and was awarded a M.Mus. degree in composition from the University of London, where his teacher was Stanley Glasser at Goldsmiths' College.

In the early 90s John started a long and fruitful relationship with Candle Music in London where he worked for over ten years writing music for TV, cinema and radio commercials. During this period he also started to write for the Zomba, (now Universal) music library, which he has done ever since. In 1994 he composed the theme music for "Working Lunch", the BBC2 business programme which ran for 15 years. in 1995 he wrote the score for "Shoot out at St. David's", a BBC Radio Drama by written by John Fletcher.

Teacher
Also in the early 90s John joined the staff at Trinity Laban (formerly Trinity College of Music) where he teaches Composition, and the Royal Academy of Music, where he taught in the Jazz Department for 12 years. At the Royal Academy John led a series of ambitious projects that involved the students transcribing and performing an album's worth of material for large ensemble. These included Jaco Pastorius's Word of Mouth album, as well as projects featuring the music of Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Don Ellis and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Jazz
For many years John led a Jazz Fusion band called "Heading Out" whose members included Martin Speake, John Parricelli, Mick Hutton, Damian Risdon, Julian Cox and Mark Cox. They played their debut gig at the Jazz Cafe, London, and played many of London's other leading Jazz venues including the Barbican centre, the 606 club and the Bull's Head. More recently John put together a band in Los Angeles to perform his Jazz music which has included Gerry Brown (Drums), C.C. Thomas (Bass), James Santiago (Guitar) and Jim Honeyman (Sax).

Concert Music
Some highlights of John's career as a composer of concert music have been "Meeting Points", a ballet performed at The Place, London in 1984. "Let's Get Moving! ", for chamber ensemble and Tape was selected by the SPNM programme director Graham Fitkin for performance at the ICA in 1994. "Two Blake Songs" for mixed choir was performed by the London Concord Singers at St. Michael's, Bloomsbury in 1994. "Music of the early 21st century" for Alto Saxophone and electronics was recorded and performed by Martin Speake and John in 2000, and was released by Sonic Arts Network on the CD "Sonic Postcards". "The Magic Piano" for Piano and laptop was premiered by John in 2003. "Music for 3 Quintets, 3 Sextets and 7 Percussion" was performed twice in 2005 at Blackheath Concert Halls by Trinity College of Music. In 2011 "Variations on the Fourth Tune" was performed by the Trinity Laban String Ensemble conducted by Nic Pendlebury at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich.

Film Music
In 2001 John started working with film composer and fellow former Trinity College student John Powell. The first film on which John worked with John Powell was "Rat Race". Others have been "Happy Feet" 1 & 2, "Horton Hears a Who", two of the "Bourne" series and "Hancock".
In recent years John has been engaged as an Orchestrator on dozens of film scores. He has orchestrated "Night at the Museum" 1 & 2, "A Christmas Carol", "Avengers Assemble" and several others for Alan Silvestri. He has worked as an orchestrator on several scores written by James Newton Howard. in 2012 he has worked on "American Reunion", "Ice Age 4", "Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2" and "Behind the Candelabra" amongst others.

Live Performance
In 2008 John arranged the Orchestral introduction for Diana Ross's performance at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, and in 2009 he produced a number of arrangements for Diana Ross's appearances at the Symphonica in Rosso concerts in the Netherlands.
In 2011 John was the conductor for both Michael Buble's ITV Christmas Special in the UK, and for his Radio 2 In Concert performance.
In 2012 John produced a number of arrangements for Barbra Streisand's 2012 tour.

Production Music
John is also a composer of dozens of pieces of production music. He wrote and recorded a series of Orchestral pieces for the Universal music library at the close of 2008, and an album of choral music in 2011.

John is married with two children.