Sunday, December 18, 2011

Amazing Grace ~ YouTube Tribute Video

My father worked for the US Forest Service for 36 years. He spent his career training hundreds of men and women to work together to safely fight forest fires. More importantly, he helped these government agencies learn to cooperate, work together and support each other during emergencies.

He unexpectedly passed away on June 27th, 2011. Oftentimes you don’t learn of a person’s impact on others until they are gone.

Over 100 men and women from various fire agencies attended the funeral in uniform. A mixed honor guard of City, County, BLM and Forest Service firefighters participated in a special honor guard to salute and pay tribute to the man who had helped teach them to work together.

At the conclusion of the funeral, nearly 20 firetrucks from all fire agencies escorted our family on an hour and a half drive to the cemetery in Tooele, Utah. At the cemetery we were met by a special mixed honor guard and flag presentation.

Our family was deeply touched by the show of love and support.

I recorded this song to say thank you to all men and women who serve each day and sometimes give their life to make our lives better. Whether they be a member of the US Forest Service, a firefighter, police officer, soldier, or teacher. Thank you.

This song is dedicated to my father and those who set an example for all of us to follow...

The first video is the music video that we filmed in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

This video shows many of the photos and video from the funeral showing the firetrucks, honor guard and flag presentation that was made for my father, Robert Tonioli. It was primarily intended to share with family, friends and others who knew my dad.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Filming My New Music Video From a Helicopter

So we've been trying to put together a music video as a tribute to my dad. I wr
ote an arrangement to Amazing Grace a few days after my dad passed away this summer and then recorded it a few weeks after the funeral.

It was a really emotional experience and the song turned out great. In order to pay tribute to my dad and have something that will really amazing to share with others, we've decided to go all out in producing a music video for this song.

My dad worked for the Forest Service for over 35 years and spent over 20 years in the Ogden, Wasatch Cache National forest. So for the music video, we wanted to film part of it out in the forest. However, the weather has been less than cooperative. Each day we've tried to film, we've had crazy weather. It decided to rain when we were going to film and now we have snow on the mountain peaks and it is only October 5th.

We caught a window of opportunity right before the storm came in on Tuesday though.

The plan was to have the piano placed in a meadow and then fly in with a helicopter and get footage from above. We still may do that, but we went out on Tuesday night and took a ride in the helicopter to film the mountains around Ogden. We'll use some of these images and a lot of video footage from this on the final music video. We decided that if we were going to do a music video, we were going to do it right. It will be out soon and I can't wait to share it with everyone.

Until then, here are a few photos that Eric Meyers took during the helicopter flight during the

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How I Wrote the Song "Mountain Air"

One of my favorite things to do is be in a boat floating down a river.

Over the years, I've progressed from floating in a large rubber raft, to a smaller 2 man raft (often called a duckie) to a hard shell kayak.

For many years I always thought that the people in hardshell kayaks were crazy, because they sometimes end up floating down the river with their head underwater, seeking out rocks and other sea life.

About 3 years ago I decided to take a kayak rolling class and see if it

was as scary and hard as it looked. After 3 nights in the swimming pool, I finally felt like I might be able to roll in a river. I found a cheap boat on and purchased my first boat, a Dagger RPM, 8 foot 11 inch boat that was made in 1999.

I've never looked back and now own 3 different kayaks and love floating class III and Class IV whitewater every chance I get.

My song Mountain Air was actually written while I was floating down the Snake River, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was just back from my mission and was floating in a 1 man rubber raft. I was with some friends and we had just watched a bald eagle drop down in front of us and scoop up a fish out of the river. It was a gorgeous day.

All of a sudden I had this melody pop in my head. I really liked it, so I started singing it. We came up on some rapids and the song kind of came together like magic as I was weaving in and out of large rapids. I kept singing it over and over again and ended up letting my buddies go ahead of me so they wouldn't think I was losing my mind singing this song out loud to myself.

Luckily I sang it enough times and kept singing it off and on that I was able to remember it the next day when we were finally home.

I've always felt like this is what the mountains sound like, but while I was at a concert in Tooele, Utah a year or so ago, I had another cool experience with this song.

I finished performing the song and hadn't told the audience what I was playing. A burly man with a grey beard asked me who had written that song. He explained that he had heard it many times over the years. I told him that I had written it. He insisted that he had heard it many times while he was hunting and climbing mountains and was sure he had heard the song before and persisted in telling me he had heard it before.

He explained that he had worked for many years as a hunting guide and filmed a hunting TV show and he had heard that tune as he hiked across mountain peaks in Montana and several other places around the country. He gave clear descriptions of the locations he had heard the song and realized each time he had heard it he had been in the mountains. He went into detail about each place and told me that the song should be called the mountain song or Mountain Air... or at least something similar to that.

He had a huge smile on his face when I told him the title to the song was "Mountain Air" and I agreed with him that this is the song that you can hear in special places on mountains, as long as you listen for the music. He loved it when I explained how I had heard the song while floating down the river canyon near Jackson.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets the chance to hear the music that is around us, but its there if you listen closely.

If you'd like to hear the song, it is the 9th track on my album Life Reflections. You can order the CD at or find it on iTunes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Canada Vacation - The Closest I've Come to Being Killed...

My family and I spent the past week in Waterton, Canada. Waterton sits on the USA, Canada border and is part of Glacier National Park. We had a wonderful time, but had our fair share of adventures. The one I'll share on this blog post was the closest I have come to losing my life, and I've had several close calls.

My Aunt Bev sent an email to her family after the event and she asked me to add my own words to it. I think her email did a good job of capturing both the onlooker perspective and my perspective of the event.
(Paddling to the end of Cameron Lake.
The glacier cave is barely visible on the far end of the lake in the two white dots.)

Excerpt from Bev's email:

We packed a picnic and went to Cameron Lake. Nellie and Garth came too. Jason brought up his kayaks and had fun with Tyler and Kallie. Even Jean took a turn. Then, he went for a journey on his own.

And, this is when the major miracle and blessing of the day took place. He was at the end of Cameron Lake by the glacier ice cave, the visible entrance of which was roughly 15 feet above the water line and more than 30 feet across. He was taking pictures, and considering going through the cave to see the lake on the other end of the tunnel when he heard something like dynamite or a loud artillery shell exploding in the ice. It was part of glacier which made up the ice cave, the size of a train car, likely bigger, and it was beginning to break off. He had time to back stroke twice before the glacier smashed into the water. He knew he was facing death.

(Above: Approaching the glacier ice cave. Notice the large rock 10 feet to the right of the cave edge.
Below: This is on a wide angle, next to the entrance, right before the ice fell. The lip of the entrance was roughly 15 feet above me.)

The following is an account in his own words...

"I watched as the main piece of the glacier crashed into the water less than 3 feet in front of my boat. My boat was thrown sideways by the water that was displaced and a huge wave crashed into the side of the boat while huge chunks of ice smashed into the water and sides of the boat. I was rolled 3/4ths of the way over and my body was protected by the bottom left underside of the fiberglass Dagger RPM whitewater kayak and likely more than one guardian angel. I was able to quickly roll back up and catch a four to five foot wave of water that surfed me away from the rush of ice chunks and snow that followed behind the crest of the wave. Had I not caught this wave, I likely would have been smashed by hundreds of chunks of rock hard ice that soon covered a 40 x 40 yard area.

When the waves and ice settled and I was able to survey the damage, it revealed a gap in the snow larger than a large box car, at least 15 feet high, 15 feet wide and 50 or more feet across. As the waves settled, two deer walked tentatively across the remaining archway and paused to look at me, I'm sure to shake their head and smile.

The only damage was I was completely soaked and my sunglasses came off when i had rolled in the water. Amazingly, I didn't have a scratch or bruise on my body.
(Above: Paddling back towards the glacier after the ice fell.
Below: Notice the dirt that is now visible, as well as the rock on the far right.)

A canoe and 2-man kayak quickly pulled up to see the damage and asked if I was ok. They said they had seen the entire thing and thought i had been crushed by the ice fall. They said that i completely disappeared and was engulfed by the water, ice and mist spray that followed. They were relieved when they saw I was safe and had reappeared from the water. They were thinking they were going to be part of search and recovery, not a search and rescue. They commented that they thought that at least it would have been quick and I wouldn't have felt much pain from several tons of ice crushing my body.

I paddled back towards the ice cave to see the amount of ice in the water. It covered so large an area, you couldn't get within 40yards of the cave entrance where I had been before, because of the ice in the water. Most of the chunks of ice near the edge were slightly larger than a basketball and were harder than rock. The size of the ice chunks grew larger, the closer it was to the entrance. The ice was so thick that there was no possible way to pass through the ice in the water. The ice was so compact and heavy that I could not lift a basketball sized ice chunk out of the water.
(Above: Notice the massive size of the fall vs. my arms.
Below: This is the zoomed out shot they took with my camera to show the entire hillside.)

I had the people in the boats take several photos of me near the edge of the fallen ice to better understand the size of the ice fall. Without a person in the photo you really can't appreciate the massive size of the glacier that fell."

When Jason got back to shore, Jean asked if he had fun. Jason said, "No! I almost died!" He then gave Stacy a BIG hug, which was touching. This morning he said, "I would have rather fought a bear. I would have had a better chance.". It was a humbling experience for him, which he has relived over and over. Art says that all the times he rowed for Aunt Lou, she never let him take her close to the glaciers.

(Final Photo - The glacier cave was just around the corner from the glacier on the right.
Notice the beautiful waterfall and green vegetation.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fun Experience with "Favorite LDS Piano Solos Book 3"

Here's another fun email I received from a piano teacher who was playing out my new book, Favorite LDS Piano Solos III.

I am a piano teacher and have lots of LDS piano students. I have 32 students living in several different wards and stakes. I use your hymn arrangements for my students to perform in their sacrament meetings. I just have to keep track of who is in what ward, and which hymns have already been done in each ward. I love that your hymns are beautifully simple and not over done. I have a student that is doing Green Hill and My Redeemer lives, back to back, for Easter. Keep up the good work! We love you, Carrie Allen

True Story:

So I get asked to perform and accompany choirs or play at baptisms. I was playing for a private baptism for a little boy, Tanner. After he was baptized and we were waiting for him to get dressed, I played Kolob, I Know That My Redeemer Lives and Be Still My Soul. He came in, was confirmed, closing song and prayer..........As soon as the Amen was said, 30 people came up to the piano to ask me what song was that???? (Kolob) Where did I get the beautiful arrangements, etc? I had to remind everyone that maybe they should go congratulate Carter on his baptism and not to be distracted by the beautiful music.

New Song Arrangement - Be Thou My Vision / Take Time to Be Holy

This was a fun email I received in response to my new arrangement of "Be Thou My Vision/Take Time to Be Holy". It's these kind of emails that keep me writing and sharing my music.

I now have a piano solo arrangement of this song, as well as a flute/piano duet for the song. We've also finished full string orchestra to accompany the piano on the song. There will still be a few changes on that version, but it will be available soon.

Email Received: 4/10/2011

"I am overwhelmed! This is so beautiful, and the melodic changes in the 4 “verse” are stunning. I wondered how it would translate into piano from the flute part, and it is truly breathtaking. I had no idea that you would pick this up and run with it as you did. I can tell you have enjoyed this melody as much I do. I hope your family is also enjoying it. It should be shared.

May I make a confession? I just couldn’t help myself (which may give you an indication of how well this will sell). I got 15 pieces of music on Wednesday night at midnight for a violinist and Thursday night I got another 13 pieces for a flautist, both of whom were to play Saturday for 1 hour each at the Temple open house. It wasn’t easy music, I had very little time to rehearse, and am only able to practice after 7:00p because of my business. I went to a member’s house to practice on a “real” piano (don’t ask), and as part of my “gift” to them for having to endure 2.25 hours of unrecognizable accompaniment music, I gave them a peaceful departure and played 15 minutes of some of the music I will perform on the 23rd in my solo time slot. As part of that gift I included what I knew to be her absolute favorite hymn, Be Thou My Vision (your version), as the closing number. When I finished, the house was quiet and peaceful, just as I hoped it would be. That was this past Friday. Yesterday I ran into her at the open house (she was an usher) and she told me when she heard that song she told her husband to let her listen and enjoy. She could feel the spirit wash over her as she listened to your beautiful music. Here is the confession…I felt “compelled” (moved by the spirit is more like it) to play it for the open house. It was our stake’s “day” to run the open house, and knowing it was a favorite to those who surrounded me, the flautist joined in and we played a stunning duet that nearly quieted an otherwise noisy tent full of visitors that was 85 degrees. It was the piece that hushed the soul, brought the spirit to us all, and stopped a crowd in their tracks. One woman ran over to see what it was, and I told her it wasn’t published yet, to which she replied, “That’s a shame. That’s the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.”

I hope you’re not mad at me for taking the opportunity to share so much of what I felt in my heart with the members of our Stake and the community who came to see the Atlanta Temple. You are a remarkable artist with a talent to give life to music; a life that allows the spirit to touch the souls of those who are blessed to be within the range of such melodic notes. This is Elder Giddens favorite piece of music and I will be playing it for him on Easter Sunday. THANK YOU! You will never know how much this means to any of us who are blessed enough to play or hear it."

Linda P - Georgia

Friday, March 25, 2011

Great Note

I received this really nice note the other day that I thought was worth sharing. It made my day...

"I am sitting here listening to your CD - Simple Gifts. In your note you said that it makes you feel calm and peaceful, and that is exactly how I am feeling right now. I put it on this morning as I was trying to get my house cleaned and doing some laundry. The morning has gone so much better than usual. It is amazing how, by just having it play in the background it can invite the Spirit and make me feel so good. Thank you so much!"

Kathy N
Nauvoo, Illinois