The loong Bio

Toby was born in 1984 in France to a multilingual artistic family that had him listening to Classical music from when he was a toddler. Seeing his first string quartet live was the catalyst that brought him to the cello, which he started studying from the age of 7. He progressed from the small music school near his home village to the regional Conservatoire in Dijon where he was taught by Laurent Lagarde, then went to Paris to study with renowned teacher Hélène Dautry, under whose direction he obtained his Diplôme d’Etudes Musicales in 2005. The love and discipline which she brought to her teaching were essential in his decision to make the cello his life’s work, and in 2006 he enrolled at McGill’s Schulich School of Music in Montréal, in the studio of internationally-acclaimed cellist Yegor Dyachkov. There, at the contact of some of the finest minds in the field, he discovered a passion for analysis and theory which led him to obtain, in 2011, a double B.Mus. degree in Performance and Music Theory. He also discovered the joy of orchestral conducting and, under the guidance of Maestro Alexis Hauser, he organized, rehearsed and conducted small ad-hoc orchestras of his schoolmates in well-recieved performances throughout his time in Montréal. He continued broadening the scope of his playing with intense chamber-music making, orchestral performances, and solo recitals, notably premiering up-and-coming composer Haralabos StafylakisSuite for solo cello which was dedicated to him. Over the years of his apprenticeship, he has recieved guidance in schools and summer festivals from many great artists in the Classical music field, most notably Johanne Perron,  Jean Deplace, Mark Fewer, Kyoko Hashimoto, Douglas McNabney, and Roland Pidoux, as well as performing in masterclasses given by  world-class musicians Timothy Eddy, Philippe Muller and Menahem Pressler.

His graduation in 2011, however, marked the end of his interest in performing Classical music. Two hitch-hiking and busking trips through Europe in the preceding years (the first of which with only a didgeridoo), and a lifetime of frustration with the narrow-minded approach of his teachers in particular, and the Classical world in general towards music-making in its wider sense, drew him away from the path set out for him and towards a more complete understanding of the musical world we all inhabit.

Burgeoning all through his education, and coming to a head towards the end of his degree, was a love of free improvisation; a simpler approach to harmony, a wide set of  rhythmic possibilities, the joy of improvising in a group, dancing, simple (and not-so-simple) tunes passed down through oral tradition, the jazz, pop, metal, blues and funk traditions, these are some of the keys that are not given the young cellist, and which Toby set out to explore from the street up, so to speak. His meeting in 2006 with busker guitarist and singer Aleksander Kusmić, a gifted and talented, entirely self-taught artist whose approach to music is completely alien to what is passed on in schools, was the defining moment which started the journey of self-discovery and research that guides Toby to this day, embracing whole new worlds of possibilities on the cello. He founded the acoustic duo Mad Kats with Aleksander in 2012, and has gone on in other bands Wild Strings Trio and the now defunct Zamee to experiment with the fusing of Balkan tunes and songs with other styles, embracing the creative process that was so sorely missed in his education.

His encounter in 2015 with the vast world of Folk music at EthnoHisteria and the Floating Castle festival has led him in even more directions, in the form of collaborations with extremely talented and dedicated artists such as (but certainly not limited to) Sofia Högstadius, Kate Young and Matija Solce It is also there that he met many of people and bands he is currently working with, namely Old Salt, Lotte Remmen (Bipolar Bows) and the fabulous Hannah James.

Toby is also starting to explore an old dream, that of teaching. While still in early stages, he gives workshops and lessons with pleasure wherever he goes.

Though for many years centered around Ljubljana (Slovenia) Toby’s life is now led on the road, between France, Slovenia, Belgium and the UK, when he’s not further afield in, for example, Canada, China, Sweden, Uzbekistan, Turkey or Iran.

Toby plays on a 2018 instrument by Günter Siefert, the Black Beast.
He still plays on a custom 5-string cello, and will also occasionally play the didgeridoo. He has recently started learning (recreationally) the oud and the banjo.