Tony Vani

David Reed - Belleville Intelligencer

Tony Vani has been making music in the Belleville area for decades. Folks in the music community know him as a versatile performer, cranking out blues and classic rock with the Stir, gospel blues with Tony Vani and the Holy Blues Band, solo performances and some work with slide guitarist Kenny Pauze.

Tony is a respected singer and guitarist, but it is his harmonica playing that really grabs me by the throat. The title track on Tony's, Her Blues CD, is a mournful confession with harmonica lines that seem to emanate from the depths of a troubled soul. The best description for his playing is “authentic.” I hear flashes of Charlie Musselwhite and the immortal Little Walter on a few tracks. (I’m also a sucker for a little tremolo on the guitar.)

Other highlights include Die Trying, Still Got Her Soul, Price of Love, Catch You When You Fall and the hopeful Sun Will Rise.

Tony Vani has got something truly special with his harmonica sound and he has lovingly crafted this collection over seven long years. You should check out this record.


          By Greg Ceci - Umbrella Nagazine

Not all musicians flower early in life and like many before him it took Tony Vani time to blossom into one of the most respected and beloved musicians in the region. His was a journey that was marred with much self doubt and earnest soul searching.

The son of Italian immigrants, Vani spent an introverted childhood feeling awkward and out of sorts. Having a learning disability, he abandoned scholastics early and headed west to find himself. It was in a Vancouver club where he had an epiphany that solidified his trajectory when he saw master harmonica player Charlie Musslewhite. Arthur Baxter, another pivotal figure out west, encouraged Vani and convinced him to join his band. That was the first of a slew of bands spanning his music career.

Playing in ensembles gave the self-taught Vani confidence and foundations in guitar, vocal, harmonica and performance to play any style of music including funk, reggae, rock and jazz, but his heart will always bleed blue. Vani remarked, “I especially dig playing the blues. There is something raw and earthy about it that really appeals to the inner soul. It saddens and excites me at the same time.”

Like many experienced performers, Vani endured unappreciative crowds, shifty venue owners, musician’s cliques and little or no pay. Through it all, Vani flourished by writing, producing and releasing five albums with another on the way, as well as opening for rock band Dr. Hook and performing at the Kingston Blues Festival. He has written over a hundred songs and his partner Debbie Hoskin helps with lyrics. Vani proudly beams, “Debbie is an amazing singer and musician in her own right but is now retired”

Eventually returning to scholastics, he emerged as an educator. Vani notes, “My training and background in education is broad. My degree is in Social Development Studies and in addition, I have four certifications in relation to my work with students with intellectual, emotional and developmental exceptionalities.”

Although now officially retired, Vani continues to work privately with adults with exceptionalities and often uses music to bridge the gap. He also continues to nurture relationships with former students by periodically taking them on fun outings and activities. 

Vani was also the brainchild behind the first annual Belleville Blues Festival. An ongoing blues festival is a fitting legacy for a bluesman who loves developing and encouraging a new generation of musicians. He is enjoying retirement with his loves Hoskin and their six poodles, who he calls his muses. He practices every day and gigs for the sheer love of entertaining a crowd. His advice to other musicians, “Practice, practice, practice. It takes ten thousand hours to master your voice or instrument.”

Deeply rooted in the blues, Vani is a perennial performer pedalling an infectious smile and stage presence who also softly serves his community and humbly inspires an entire music scene.

Jeannette Arsenault
Quinte Arts Council
Tony Vani is almost as well known for generously encouraging and showcasing fellow musicians as he is for his versatility as a musician in his own right. His focus is on blues and classic rock with his band, “Stir” (Mark Bishop, bass; Shirley Dianne Baker, vocals; and, Christ Whiteman, drums). He also plays gospel blues with “Tony Vani and the Holy Blues Band” (Vitas Slapkauskas, bass; Matt Smith, guitar and, Chris Lingard, drums) and performing Delta blues in his duo with slide guitarist Kenny Pauze or by working solo.
As every musician knows, you are not a true musician unless you have had that nightmare gig. Tony recalls one night at a club in Napanee when he had to do the walk of shame after being fired on the spot because his guitar string broke. Thus, he learned the great guitar player lesson: “though shalt not leave home without a spare guitar and have it tuned up, ready to go”. His most memorable gig was when he performed for his Mom on her 80th birthday – it was the first time she had ever heard him.
Over the years, he has generously and tirelessly organized many open mics at The Belleville Club featuring a mix of amateur and professional musicians who perform solo or join in with others. He creates such a relaxing atmosphere that it feels like the concert is taking place in your living room. “I enjoy bringing out new people and watching their confidence grow. Music is therapy. People have the opportunity to try out new things, have a safe place to practice performing in public, and besides, it’s fun”, he laughs.
Known predominantly for his harp playing, his favourite harmonica influences include Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Mussellwhite and Corky Siegal. “I am so impressed with their tone, virtuosity, rawness and overall feel”, he says. Other musical influences include Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, John Mayall, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnston.
Self-described as self-taught, he says: “I always had awareness of what my personal style would be and I sought out teachers or I learned from playing along with records. I followed my passion.” He has just released a new CD of original material entitled “Her Blues” based on his own personal life experience of living with a loved one’s suffering. It’s a 7 year labour of love that is deeply reflected in the songs he has included on this album.
Tony divides his time between his music, working with physically and mentally-challenged adults and living with his partner Debbie Hoskins, owner of the seven dogs who run their household. Find him at or on Facebook @TonyVani and go out to support live music because #livemusicmatters.

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