Tom Allen began his musical career as a trombonist, studying at the universities of McGill, Boston & Yale, and touring with the Great Lakes Brass. In 1991 he branched out into radio broadcasting, concert hosting and public speaking as well as authoring three books. Beginning in 2008, in collaboration with his life partner the harpist Lori Gemmell, Tom began creating a series of Chamber Musicals and films with the company Tom Allen & Friends.
He lives in Toronto, Ontario, and broadcasts on CBC Music, presenting About Time, a national art music program. From 1998 to 2009, he hosted the classical music program Music and Company and, from 2010 to 2021, Shift.
Allen also works as a concert host and a creative consultant for symphony orchestras. For ten seasons he hosted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Afterworks series, as well as many concerts with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Hamilton Philharmonic, and Symphony Nova Scotia. From 2006 to 2009, he hosted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Unmasked series of concerts, working with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Hans Graf and Peter Oundjian. With Oundjian in Detroit, he also co-created Eight Days in June, a ground-breaking festival of music and thought involving multiple genres and media.
Allen has published three books of autobiographical non-fiction: Toe Rubber Blues (1999), Rolling Home (2001) and The Gift of The Game (2006). He received the 2002 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for Rolling Home, his memoir of a cross-Canada rail journey.
In 2012 Allen created (with his life-partner Lori Gemmell) Bohemians in Brooklyn, a cabaret-style revue based upon the lives of the musicians and writers living in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1940s. It featured the Canadian soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, the pianist-singer Bryce Kulak, harpist Gemmell and Allen himself as trombonist and narrator. A surprise success of that year’s Soulpepper Cabaret Festival, Now Magazine wrote that Bohemians in Brooklyn was “… Beautifully punctuated… and brought the songs to vivid life.” The success prompted 6 further “chamber musicals”, which have been performed across Canada, including The Judgment of Paris, Weimar to Vaudeville, The Missing Pages and Exosphere. His most recent chamber musical, created with longtime friend and collaborator Jeff Reilly,isBeing Lost, about the 15 hours American composer John Cage spent lost overnight in the Saskatchewan woods in 1965.
With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Tom Allen began also making films. The most recent of those is The Last Curlew, directed by Gregory J. Sinclair. It will be released in 2022.