About Toni Knight



Toni started playing the organ at age 4, before she could even reach the pedals. Then at age 6 her mother, a professional singer, hooked her up with a band member friend who became her favorite teacher.  That old Hammond B3 finally got a workout when Jack Schaller started teaching her to play jazz.  She was playing professionally by age 11, improvising background music for silent movies at McMahon’s steak house restaurant in Baltimore.  Playing the inaugural ball for the Mayor of Baltimore is her most memorable childhood music experience.

Thanks to her mom, she started singing in music theatre, went on to become a voice major at Peabody Conservatory of Music and then switched to piano. Thanks to her Dad’s “name that tune game” on the porch glider, she had an endless repertoire of pieces she could play by ear. So, at age 18, she was playing gigs in local restaurants where the clientele tried to stump the kid on the keys . . . Ha!

A friend at the Conservatory introduced her to the harp, gave her the basics and her first harp and the two of began playing together as a harp duet at local restaurants. Being able to improvise allowed her to transfer most of her repertoire to the harp. This skill handed her a regular gig as a solo harpist 5 nights a week at a local restaurant, while also playing special events held for presidents and ambassadors in Washington D.C.  Along the way she fell in love with Traditional Irish music, playing harp with local Celtic bands, and had a blast directing The Men of Amhranai na Gaeilge, a 60 member Irishmen’s Chorale.  That’s how she met her first husband and Irish musician, Lars Mader.

They later moved to Whatcom County where they played as a duet for 13 years at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Teaching music and kindergarten at Lummi Island school, giving private lessons and playing gigs wasn’t enough for Toni, so she started a theatre guild on the island and became the Music Director.  Meeting and playing with harpist, Alfredo Ortiz, rekindled her childhood interest in Latin music. So, her first harp CD, Angelica, includes some original Latin style pieces that she presented in concerts around the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Hawaii.  As a harpist, she has played over 5oo weddings.

Back on the mainland and remarried, her guitarist husband, Dave, wanted them to be able to play music together, so he gave her an accordion for her birthday.  Thanks to Dave, she now plays accordion in their own Argentine Tango band, Tocato Tango.  In addition to being the band leader, she also plays piano and accordion, sings, arranges all the music, acts as booking agent and does the dishes.



How I Teach

Tocato Tango

created by Joni Bowen.