Cultivating Creativity: Toni Vani follows his passion

“I enjoy bringing out new people and watching their confidence grow. Music is therapy.”

By Jeanette Arsenault

Tony Vani is almost as well known for generously encouraging/showcasing fellow musicians as he is for his versatility as a musician in his own right.

He mostly focusses on blues and classic rock with his band, “Stir” (Mark Bishop, bass; Shirley Dianne Baker, vocals; and, Chris Whiteman, drums) plus gospel blues with “Tony Vani and the Holy Blues Band” (Vitas Slapkauskas, bass; Matt Smith, guitar and, Chris Lingard, drums) and performing Delta blues in his duo with slide guitarist Kenny Pauze or by working solo.

As every musician knows, you are not a true musician unless you have had THAT nightmare gig. Tony recalls one night at a club in Napanee when had to do the walk of shame after being fired on the spot because his guitar string broke. Thus he learned the great guitar player lesson: “though shalt not leave home without a spare guitar and have it tuned up, ready to go”.

His most memorable gig was when he performed for his Mom on her 80th birthday – it was the first time she had ever heard him.

Over the years, he has generously & tirelessly organized many open mics at The Belleville Club over the years featuring a mix of amateur and professional musicians who perform solo or join in with others. He creates such a relaxing atmosphere that it feels like the concert is taking place in your living room.

“I enjoy bringing out new people and watching their confidence grow. Music is therapy.  People have the opportunity to try out new things, have a safe place to practice performing in public, AND besides, it’s fun”, he laughs.

Known predominantly for his harp playing, his favourite harmonica influences include Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Mussellwhite and Corky Siegal. “I am so impressed with their tone, virtuosity, rawness and overall feel”, he says.  Other musical influences include Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, John Mayall, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.

Self-described as self-taught, he says: “I always had awareness of what my personal style would be and I sought out teachers or I learned from playing along with records. I followed my passion.”

He has just released a new CD of original material entitled “Her Blues” based on his own personal life’s experience of living with a loved one’s suffering. It’s a 7 year labour of love that is deeply reflected in the songs he has included on this album.

Tony divides his time between his music, working with physically and mentally challenged adults and living with his partner Debbie Hoskins, owner of the seven dogs who run their household.

Find him at or on Facebook @TonyVani and go out to support live music because #livemusicmatters.