Dr. Thomas Benjamin Banks O.C., LL.D.
Dr. Thomas (Tommy) Banks is recognized for his musical leadership and his contributions to Canada’s cultural scene. His talents, expertise and efforts have helped attract major world artists to Alberta stages in major festivals and in television and recording.
His extraordinary musical ability and experience are reflected in his distinguished career. He has conducted almost every major professional orchestra in Canada, and has been an accompanist for literally hundreds of well-known performers. His musical-direction credits include the 1978 Commonwealth Games, the 1983 World University Games, Expo ’86 and the 1988 XV Olympic Winter Games. He has been involved in over 70 internationally syndicated television specials in various roles – executive producer, conductor, composer, arranger and pianist. Through The Tommy Banks Show on CBC-TV, then on ITV, then in international syndication, he became known first nationally and then internationally on television.
The double album recorded by his 17-member jazz band at Switzerland’s Montreaux International Festival resulted in the 1979 Juno Award. In 1984, his jazz band was the first to tour China in 35 years.
The musical endeavours of Dr. Banks have launched many Albertans on to full-time careers in music here and internationally. His contributions and credibility have resulted in industry-related opportunities in Alberta, and in the process, numbers of Alberta artists, studio and technical personnel have become recognized. His efforts and high level of activity over forty years have resulted directly in employment for Alberta musicians and performers, and in the construction of related facilities. He has invested personally in various arts businesses.
He was a part of the pioneering efforts which have resulted in our flourishing recording arts industry and in a healthy level of active financial assistance programs for artists and arts projects. Dr. Banks was a founding member of the Alberta Recording Arts Foundation, now the Alberta Recording Industry Association (A.R.I.A.). His role as founding chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts was vital in guiding the early development of that organization, which has become one of the most important funding avenues for the arts in Alberta.
Dr. Banks has devoted part of his astonishing energy and talent to the service of our community in the field of music education. He has served in a number of roles including adjudicator, clinician, speaker, musician and administrator. He has served as a member of the Board of Governors and as chairman of the Music Committee of Alberta College, and as chairman of the music program of Grant MacEwan Community College. He has been musical director for Edmonton Musical Theatre, the Citadel Theatre, and for hundreds of television series programs. He was chairman of the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation, and is currently a member of the Canada Council. He is an honourary member of Cosmopolitan International.
In recognition of his role as its founding chairman, the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts has established an endowment fund of $25,000, from the proceeds of which the annual Tommy Banks Award is given to recognize the achievements of music directors and young musicians at music festival competitions.
Dr. Banks was a member of the Board of the Alberta Heart Foundation and served as honourary campaign chairman of the Alberta Heart Fund.
He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991.