Chorus Member Profile


Tony Barkley

25-Year Chorus Member: Tony Barkley

Chorus Member Tony Barkley is the proud owner of one Bentley and one Mercedes, but he only has one car. These two feisty rescue cats keep Tony entertained with their antics every day, whether they are lounging on the patio or getting into a disagreement over food with the not-so-friendly neighborhood possum. As a 30-year resident of Cincinnati’s West End, Tony has personally watched the area transform into the revitalized hub of activity that it is today. Plus, he only has to walk for about three minutes to May Festival Chorus rehearsals at Music Hall.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Tony began studying music at a young age. He grew up next door to a German violinist named Louis Pogner, who had been a member of the Berlin Philharmonic before World War II and then became Tony’s first music teacher. These piano lessons, along with the steady stream of classical, jazz, and pop music to which his parents listened, gave him a solid background for future music studies.

It wasn’t until high school though that choral music became a focus for Tony, rather than sports – tennis in particular. When he was a sophomore at Archbishop Purcell High School, which at the time was an all-boys school with no air conditioning, he had his first encounter with the May Festival. John Leman came to speak to his high school choir and invited a select few singers, including Tony, to come sing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and the Battle Hymn of the Republic with the May Festival and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

So, while 2021 may officially by Tony’s 25th anniversary as a member of the May Festival Chorus, he first sang with us 45 years ago!

Tony went on to attend Miami University on scholarship, where he studied voice and piano, in addition to his main instruments tuba and euphonium. He earned his music education degree and eventually returned to his alma mater, which had become the co-ed Purcell Marian High School, as music director. Later he went on to earn a Master of Montessori Education degree from Xavier University, and focused his teaching career on Montessori pedagogy in Catholic schools. For 32 years, he taught at Sands Montessori School on the eastside, near Anderson.

Between 2007 and 2009, Tony attended the Juilliard School’s summer sessions to study voice, piano, and theater – a life-changing experience of which most of us only dream. At Juilliard, Tony studied under several experts in the performing arts, including soprano Benita Valente, modern dancer Lori Belilove, and pianist Dan Cataneo, who all helped him become the artist he is today. The supportive environment is one Tony remembers in his own teaching – building students up instead of shutting them down. In particular, Tony remembers Dr. Robert Abramson, lauded as “a teacher of teachers” who published multiple studies on the connections between music and learning. Tony remembers feeling encouraged by all his instructors to push boundaries, not hold back, and seek new experiences through his artistic expression.

While music and teaching kept him busy during the day, Tony kept up with sports by playing tennis on an Eastern Hills Indoor Tennis Club team. He became captain, and the team went on to win the city championships in both 2010 and 2011 with him in that post. In the 2011 regional tournament, Tony literally gave it all he could. In a dramatic exit from competitive playing, he tore his Achilles at that tournament and was escorted away from the game in an ambulance! Tony describes the six month recovery as going from a mummy, to Lurch from the Addams family, to Tim Conway’s character Dorf. He still plays tennis recreationally, but not quite at the same championship level.

Though he spent one year retired in 2018, he returned to education and now serves as Principal of the Prince of Peace Catholic Montessori School in Covington, Kentucky. He is leading the school through transformation and growth, keeping the Catholic faith and Montessori teaching front of mind. With Tony’s leadership, the stunning facilities, and world class staff, this school is a great incubator for tomorrow’s great thinkers and leaders.

Tony has amassed an astounding collection of May Festival memories over the years, but one in particular stands out. When the Chorus travelled to New York to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 at Carnegie Hall with Robert Shaw, Tony and his roommate Mark Barnes found themselves chatting with a couple of women in Central Park when they realized they were running late for rehearsal. The women were dubious that their new acquaintances were, in fact, going to perform at Carnegie Hall, so they followed them quickly to the Hall. As they approached, they noticed that traffic had stopped. Pedestrians and cars alike slowed down to hear the music pouring forth from the rehearsal. Tony remembers that performance as an intense spiritual experience, with the audience’s applause lasting for a full twenty minutes after the close of the performance

We are delighted to celebrate Tony Barkley on his 25th official anniversary with the May Festival Chorus! Get to know Tony a little better by listening to his personal playlist on Spotify, and learn how high schoolers are getting involved with the May Festival today through the Youth Chorus here.