Singer Tino Tomas looking to the stars

Andrea Alexander
Former Ascension Parish and St. Amant resident is poised for a breakthrough in a young career which has already taken him around the world and earned legions of fans.

Ah, the promise of youth. Maybe some older folks wouldn’t want to return to younger years, given what they know now about life. But from 20-year-old Tino Tomas’s corner of the world, future prospects sure look good. This up-and-coming young musician, a native of Ascension Parish and St. Amant, was nominated for a boatload of Grammy’s the past two years, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist in 2009; as well as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and Best Pop Vocal Album in 2010.

As a kid, Tomas would sing karaoke at flea market contests around the parish and participate in various song festivals in the Baton Rouge area. It wasn’t long before he was “discovered” when he was 12 by world-renowned Chef John Folse, who signed him on a contract. At the Golden Magnolia Festival in Baton Rouge (sponsored by the International Federation of Festival Organizations, a now-defunct children’s festival that promoted peace and friendship through music and art in 13 countries),

Tomas met his current agent Jo Ann Franchi of BratCat Entertainment Group. He relocated to Baton Rouge, then traveled to Romania, Lithuania, and Italy, among other places, to perform internationally. In Italy, he studied under Delpho Menicucci (the vocal coach for Andrea Bocelli) at the Bocelli School of Music. Tomas won the San Marino Festival vocal contest in 2004, singing in Italian for the first time and beating out 1,500 native Italian singers. He was the first American to compete in that festival.

Now Tomas sings regularly in Italian and, of course, in English. It’s not hard to tell why this young singer wins acclaim singing Italian ballads, considering his passionate, powerful voice, and the pure emotion of his performances. “Back in old Napoli,” as the song goes, “that’s amore” – love of life, romance, being happy – all of young Tomas’s favorite subjects to sing about.

With black hair and chocolate-brown eyes, Tomas even looks Italian. Some say he resembles a younger version of Lionel Ritchie. Perhaps the varying impressions of his appearance speak to the versatility of his performances, which go far beyond the pale of the love-struck Italian balladeer. In 2005, Tomas won the R&B Division in Star Search Nashville.

He was nominated for National R&B/Soul Artist of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards in 2008. In spite of national and international competitions, Tomas enjoys performing at local non-profit events, and even made an appearance at Governor Bobby Jindal’s inaugural celebrations in 2006.

Tomas’s musical tastes encompass a wide variety of genres. His first love was the “oldies” of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Even today, Tomas loves performing annually at Sam’s Beach Bar for the Doowop Shop Anniversary event in Hudson Beach, Florida. He boasts a huge following there and broadcasts his music on 106.3 FM with the likes of The Crests, The Reflections, Joey Dee and the Starlights, and The Saints.

When he was a kid, Tomas would surf through radio stations and listen to the oldies. His musical repertoire was formed by listening to such influential artists as James Brown, Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, Smoky Robinson, Tina Turner, Prince, Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons, Stevie Wonder, Casey and the Sunshine Band, and Earth Wind & Fire.

“I feel the oldies more than my own compositions,” Tomas says. “People say I sing it with feeling. I get into their hearts, and the crowd and I become one.”

Now Tomas embraces a plethora of musical styles, including pop, R&B, soul, funk, classical and opera. “I have a typical R&B soul voice, but it’s operatic and resonant, too. I’d say I have multiple voices,” says Tomas, who possesses a natural vibrato and wide vocal range. He admires Pavarotti, and has become close friends with Andrea Bocelli and Bocelli’s wife, who cries whenever she hears Tomas sing and likes calling him her “bambino.”

So far, Tomas has recorded three solo CD recordings: In Love, Tino Salutes the Oldies, and Stay.

“Full-length albums are no more. It’s more about singles these days,” says Tomas, who’s currently writing and planning to record several singles. He hopes to break into the club/dance music scene with some of his compositions and recordings.

“This is the most amazing job in the world because you can have fun and express yourself. It’s a God-given talent that I plan on using to the fullest,” he says. With more than 300 performances already under his belt, Tomas is well on his way to the proverbial moon.