Inspired by images of his beloved lake, a Canandaigua music teacher produces a CD with former students.

Simple enough for the amateur to play, yet complex enough to sound professional. That’s how people describe the music of Tom Davis.

 Davis, the K-12 music superintendent of the Canandaigua City School District, also composes and performs outside the walls of his classroom. He recently released “Lake Songs,” a compilation of music partly inspired by images of Canandaigua Lake.

“He’s thoughtful,” said Reagan Fletcher, one of Davis’ former students who now plays drums in his band. “He doesn’t want to play just to play. He wants to play and really put a lot of thought and care into how the music is structured.”

Davis started playing trumpet in elementary school in the 1960s. Sometimes, when his parents were out, he would transcribe Louis Armstrong music from his family’s record player. By age 10, he was playing in a big band called The Collegians, sometimes playing lead and solo trumpet.

“I was pretty much bitten by this thing,” he said.

During his college years at Ithaca College and later for graduate work at Eastman School of Music, Davis worked as a teacher’s assistant for composers who have earned their own fame.

“A lot of times I’ll go to the movies and I’ll see the composers were the guys that I was their teacher’s assistant for film scoring and competition,” he said.

Davis stopped writing for the big publishing companies a few years ago. He said they are aiming for the masses, trying to sell as much music as they can to as many people as possible. Now, he focuses on writing under his own label, Tom Davis Music, and composing pieces that will sound professional no matter what the musician’s level is.
“It doesn’t sound like high-school-kid music,” he said.

Davis has had more than 100 jazz and concert band compositions published and has been commissioned by schools across the country to write original pieces. He has been a music teacher for about 27 years, and said teaching is a way to help him come a better musician.

“There are a lot of people out there that say if you can’t do it, then teach instead,” he said. “I always thought that a musician or teacher needs to be as diverse as possible in every aspect.”

“Lake Songs,” Davis’ debut album, features about 20 musicians, several of them Canandaigua Academy graduates. Davis said he chose former students “because they’re great musicians.”

“I could use more if I could get them all in the same place at the same time,” he said.
Michael Bomwell, a former student who has played saxophone with Davis for the past 10 years, said it’s a natural choice to perform with local musicians. “He likes to feel like he can access a vibrant local music scene,” he said. “It’s a way of reinforcing that whole concept, that western New York and Rochester in particular has these resources to use.”

The ideas for some of the songs on the CD are inspired by local places too. Photos of Canandaigua Lake by Messenger photographer Rikki Van Camp led Davis to write “Lake Songs Suite.” The piece was originally composed for the Canandaigua jazz ensemble during the 2005-2006 school year and later compiled on a DVD. The movement “Swingin on a Swing in the Spring” was inspired by a photo of a young girl swinging toward a blue sky.

“It almost looks as if she’s going to jump off that swing and land on the sun,” said Davis.
Davis used the slopes and direction of light in Vaån Camp’s photo of Whiskey Point near Canandaigua Lake to write “Slopes and Dots.” “Ducks(sss)!” a more frantic movement, sounds like the chaos of a flock of ducks in another of Van Camp’s photos. The interior of the CD case also features local photos.

“It’s uniquely Canandaigua in so many ways.”

Tom Davis’ CD is available at Phoenix Coffee in Canandaigua, through the iTunes on-line music store or at For more information, visit

Contact Stephanie Bergeron at (585)394-0770 ext. 255 or